Last month, four Guild employees attended the Massachusetts Direct Support Professionals conference in Falmouth. The event, which took place on October 24th and 25th, honored the essential work of direct support staff across the state while providing networking and professional development opportunities.
The conference’s plenary speakers included:
- Peter Leidy, teacher and consultant with extensive professional experience in direct support work;
- Jane Ryder, Commissioner with the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services; and
- Pauline MacLellan, mother of five, three of whom are autistic, and advocate who has been sharing her family’s journey at conferences for over ten years.
These keynote speakers highlighted the crucial yet often overlooked work of direct support employees.
“It was my first time going to a conference like this, and it opened my eyes,” says Isaac Mukwaya, Residential Assistant with Sudbury House. “One of the key takeaways for me was the importance of focusing on each individual’s strengths and supporting their unique skills.”
Attendees also had the chance to attend small-group breakout sessions across the two days. Workshop subject areas included best practices to support relationship-building for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), strategies to increase community inclusion, coping with pandemic protocols, and self-care for staff.
“In one of the breakout sessions, we discussed the importance of understanding each client as a whole person beyond their behavior plan,” says Dorcas Bahati, Residential Assistant with Billerica House. “We always get to know those we work with as people first and that way, they feel safe.”
In line with priorities outlined in its strategic plan, The Guild provides avenues for growth and development for employees within the organization and in the broader human services sector. In addition to providing opportunities to attend conferences like this one, The Guild is in its second year of offering its Leadership Employee Advancement and Development program and has plans to roll out a similar program, Leadership in Direct Support, for Teacher Assistants and Residential Assistants in the spring.
“The Massachusetts Direct Support Professionals conference allowed Guild staff to hear from experts in the field and learn about the latest best practices in providing supports for folks with I/DD,” says Maureen Costello-Shea, Chief Program Officer with The Guild. “We’re looking forward to continuing our participation in this conference each year.”