The Impact of Direct Support Professionals

Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) work directly with intellectually or developmentally disabled people. Their task is to assist their clients, enabling them to live their lives to the fullest. They act as a bridge between a client with a disability and the community, strengthening both in the process.

But the role of a DSP is no longer just that of a caregiver. Over the years, the profession has shifted towards teaching, support, and mentorship. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities don’t always need to be looked after; they often benefit more from learning how to look after themselves. With the assistance of a DSP, people with disabilities can blossom, becoming independent, sociable, and confident in their abilities.

Knowing this, it’s clear that DSPs are indispensable assets to the disabled community. They are primarily supporters, although they may also specialize as clinicians, personal administrators, and social coordinators. They effectively do it all. For their clients, this can mean everything from assistance with bathing and dressing in the morning to helping them access education and entering the workforce.

The Unsung Heroes

DSPs are the unsung heroes of the healthcare community. They provide essential services for thousands of people with disabilities every single day. They are frontline healthcare workers, the same as doctors and nurses, yet they often go overlooked.

It’s high time for everyone to recognize the good work done by direct support professionals. Like so many of our other frontline workers, they deserve our praise and gratitude.

The Breaking Point

With COVID-19 taking an unprecedented toll across the board, everyone is bearing down, trying to make ends meet. This is proving to have especially serious consequences for DSPs and the disabled community. Under the extreme financial strain, many service providers are being forced to impose care rationing. Service providers are being stretched too thin. They are overworked and underpaid. 

In short, there simply aren’t enough DSPs to go around. The industry was already struggling before the pandemic; the turnover rate was high, leaving vacancies that desperately needed filling. It was near unsustainable. Now, the industry has reached dire new levels of systemic strain, and disabled folks are suffering as a result. Beyond that, there just aren’t enough medical supplies to go around. DSPs work in close contact with their clients, leaving both clients and workers vulnerable to the spread of illness. 

Even if scores of unemployed people flock to the DSP field, the necessary skills can’t be taught in a few days or weeks. It takes months and even years to become a trained and qualified DSP, as they are often called upon to perform tasks like tube-feeding and administering medication. 

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, while Governor Cuomo has done so much to strengthen New York’s healthcare system and unite its workers, there is more yet to do. If we take the time to learn more about DSPs and what they do, we’ll be better able to serve them in return. Human service professionals everywhere need your support now, more than ever. 
If you are looking for a way to be part of the solution, reach out today to learn more about what you can do to support our DSPs.

Independent Living Association Receives Mask Donation from The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has made a most generous unsolicited donation of 100 hand sewn masks to ILA in appreciation of the care and dedication of the ILA staff during the challenging pandemic.

The materials used for the masks, according to Julia Carlson, Associate Conservator in the Department of Textile Conservation, and Melina Plottu, Associate Conservator in the Costume Institute, are high quality conservation materials: Pima cotton, acid free polyester Pellon and 100% cotton muslin. The masks are water repellent, washable, and the 300 thread count cotton outer layer and Pellon inner layer helps block out most particles.

The Met mask making project was undertaken by 21 volunteers and staff from six museum departments and has been spearheaded by Janina Poskrobko, Conservator in Charge in the Department of Textile Conservation and Minsun Hwang, Conservator in Textile Conservation.  Smart Local 28 of the sheet metal workers union donated the metal strips for the masks .…  a true collaboration of New Yorkers caring for each other.

Besides ILA, other recipients of the masks have been three hospitals, four other non-profits, women’s shelters, veteran’s housing and essential workers in various departments in the Museum. Over 1700 masks have been donated thus far.

ILA employs over 700 people, operates 35 group homes (Individual Residential Alternatives) across New York City with a total of 247 beds and has a day habilitation center that many of the developmentally and intellectually disabled men and women attend. Like many similar organizations, COVID-19 has dramatically affected the daily structure and routines of these individuals. Direct Support Professionals staff the homes 24/7 and are responsible for the care and safety of the residents, no easy task especially during these times. Arthur Palevsky, the Executive Director of ILA, is extremely appreciative for the Met donation as well as other contributions of both money and Personal Protective Equipment

Even though a number of individuals have been affected by the virus, the entire staff of ILA is committed to the continuous care of all its individuals and “our staff”, says Mr. Palevsky, “continues to be nothing short of amazing”.  

Cover image from The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Funding Home and Community-Based Supports

As COVID-19 shelter in place orders enter their third month, Americans everywhere are struggling. While everyone is trying to make the best of the situation, it is becoming increasingly clear where support systems are failing those in the disabled community.

Financial Challenges

It’s well-documented that people with disabilities are at a disproportionately higher risk of experiencing food and housing insecurity than non-disabled members of the community. During lockdowns, disabled workers, like so many others, are losing their jobs. While the government is rolling out emergency financial assistance programs for unemployed workers, it’s these same unemployment programs that interfere with the recipient’s eligibility for other necessary programs that help feed and house them.

Medical Vulnerability

Disabled and chronically ill folks are more likely to have pre-existing medical conditions. These conditions make them especially vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus, requiring the need for them to take greater precautions. Sometimes, it is simply too difficult for them to take these extra steps on their own.

Dependent Living

People with disabilities are not always able to live independently. Some live alone but require help from aides, nurses, or assistants. Other folks may need accessible transport. Still others live in nursing facilities or group homes, where social distancing is virtually impossible. The sheer number of residents, as well as the limited roster of staff that rotates through the facility, makes spreading the virus far more likely. 

Even within these support systems, resources are limited. It’s becoming more difficult by the day to offer these essential services. Providers are sinking under the added weight to an already struggling system.

With the combined effects of medical vulnerability, job loss, dependence on various supports, and financial duress, it’s clear that the disabled community is facing an uphill battle. As they attempt to weather wave after wave of hardship, it becomes more difficult to cope.

Though members of the disabled community are dealing with COVID-19 differently, there is a shared understanding: living with a disability during a global health pandemic is no easy task.

It’s because of these factors and others that people who live with disabilities are experiencing a higher risk level during the COVID pandemic. And it’s because of them that support services do their utmost to help those who need it.

Support Is Needed

Of course, no two disabilities are exactly alike. Individuals have vastly different needs depending on their level of independence. No matter what’s going on in the world around us, that need for care does not change. 

Currently, service providers for the disabled community are experiencing higher than average demand due to illness and other reasons related to the virus. There are simply too many people that need help and not enough employees or funding to help them all. 

Providers are facing unprecedented challenges – on top of lost revenue and higher operating costs. The financial weight is significant, but there are so many people who can’t live without these services. With no definitive end in sight for social distancing measures, home and community-based services need more funding to bring help where it’s needed.
Independent Living Association works tirelessly to serve the disabled communities in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, and Staten Island, NY, but we can’t do it alone. Please consider donating to help support our community efforts. You can be a part of the solution.

A Message from Arthur Palevsky

Dear ILA Families,

As you will note above, embedded in ILA’s logo is “A Culture of Caring.” It’s more than just a slogan; it’s our mission and our guiding principle.  It’s our way of life.    
With New York State’s closing of day programs more than 1 month ago, a positive step towards health and safety, Individuals have been quarantined 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  It is awesome to witness how well our Individuals have adjusted.  I see socially distant meals and activities, and as best as can be tolerated the use of PPEs. I say this with great pride, which is how I hope you are experiencing this as well. 

Also with the closing of programs, our residential staff have become day service providers, and our day program staff have become residential providers.  The transition was seamless, and also awesome to have witnessed.  Staring directly into the face of COVID-19, ILA’s staff come to work with a “rarin’ to go”, positive attitude. This goes for Direct Care and Support Professionals, On-site Administration, Field Administration and Central Office Administration. So it is no surprise that our staff continue to be nothing short of amazing. We must all thank them for their continuous care of our Individuals. 
All along ILA has followed the guidance of the NYS Department of Health and the Office of People With Developmental Disabilities.   We thank them for disseminating essential information which has been of great assistance in keeping your loved ones healthy.  Additionally, we secured enough (currently) Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) through suppliers and donors to make it possible for our people to adhere to the central principles of the State’s advice. WEAR MASKS.  PPEs, though, are a changing landscape to which we are providing continual attention. 

Regarding masks, of particular note is that this past Thursday, ILA received an unsolicited donation of 100 hand-sewn masks from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The materials used for the masks are typically used by the museum to conserve works of art.  The materials are now used to conserve human life.  New Yorkers helping New Yorkers. 

A few facts: Over the past week and one half, there has been no new reports of Individuals testing positive for COVID-19. Over the same time period, there has been one report of a staff member testing positive, and one report of a staff member who was medically cleared to return to work testing positive.  This is a downward trend of infections, but not an indication that we will lessen our efforts, nor an indication that we are out of the woods.  All Individuals who have tested positive and are convalescing either in our homes or in a rehabilitation center are progressing well.  Some are cleared from isolation. Of the two hundred and forty seven ILA beds, seventeen Individuals tested positive. Our census is lower than the number of beds.  Of the approximately seven hundred employees of ILA, thirty-eight tested positive.  Many have been medically cleared to return to work.  Information from our statistical review yields that there is not a contagion outbreak in any of our homes correlated to the presence within a home of an Individual released from isolation or a staff member returning to work.  Bear in mind that Individuals and likely staff are tested only if they display symptoms of COVID-19.  And as we all are aware, most sadly, over these past few months we have lost four Individuals to COVID-19. There are statistics I can share of the age or underlying conditions of the Individuals, but no matter.  Each life was precious.   

Going forward, we will continue to follow the highest standards achievable for PPEs, social distancing and sanitation.  We are confident in the measures we’ve taken to keep our Individuals and employees as safe as possible. We will continue to respond to newly issued guidance’s from NYS and work to keep our homes positive places to be during this time. We thank you for your support as we continue to learn and ensure progress is made daily.

Arthur

Pawsitive Impact: Assistance Dogs and Intellectually/Developmentally Disabled Individuals

It’s no secret that a dog is man’s best friend. But beyond that, they may also be man’s best assistant. 

Assistance dogs have been in the profession for ages, but as time goes by, science is proving the true versatility of trained support pooches.

Animals Help Us Feel Better

Animals, as it turns out, have an extremely positive impact on mental health. When you’re feeling low, curling up with your dog really helps. They show unconditional love for their humans and seem to possess a profound emotional intelligence that makes you feel warm and fuzzy. 

Knowing this, it’s no surprise that they can make a big difference in the physical and mental health of individuals with developmental disabilities.

What Can Assistance Dogs Help With?

Developmental disabilities can span a range of diagnoses and a wide variety of symptoms. Issues with cognition, motor function, speech, and social interaction can all be symptomatic of developmental conditions. One thing is sure, however: assistance dogs have an incredible, positive impact on those with developmental disabilities.

Service dogs can be trained to perform a variety of tasks for developmentally challenged people. They can be a mobility aid, and help their person develop an increased sense of independence. They can understand physical signals and non-verbal cues, making everyday life safer, easier, and more enjoyable.

Making Connections

But assistance dogs can do so much more than that. Besides keeping their humans safe from physical harm, they can also help them interact with others. A dog can be a source of connectivity to the rest of the world.

Assistance dogs can also be wonderful companions, an aspect that is just as important as the physical part of their jobs. Folks with developmental disabilities may feel different from their peers, which can lead to feelings of isolation. They might sometimes feel too heavily dependent on others, which leads to feelings of shame or guilt. 

Assistance dogs are the perfect companions for those who struggle to connect. They ask for so little and give so much affection in return. They provide the kind of emotional connection and support that is not always easy to find in other humans.

Reduced Fear, Loneliness, and Anxiety, Increased Independence and Fulfillment

Research shows that disabled youths aged 18 to 35 who were paired with assistance dogs showed significantly decreased levels of loneliness, isolation, fear, and anxiety – a difference of over 80% in each category! These dogs also helped them navigate social situations with more confidence, and simply made them feel more accepted and at ease with their disabilities. Plus, there was an increased sense of independence, which often leads to a more fulfilling life.

It’s incredible to see the difference these animals make in the lives of their humans. Not only can they make life easier and more accessible, but they can provide a vital emotional connection.

Overwhelmingly, assistance dogs make their handlers feel confident, accepted, and loved. Dogs don’t see people’s differences as something negative. They love you exactly as you are. It’s a quality we should all aspire to! 

The relationship between an assistance dog and a developmentally delayed individual is a truly special relationship – and it may just be a match made in dog heaven.

If you have an assistance dog, we’d love to hear your story! 
Learn more about ILA and our services or click here to donate. Your contributions help improve the lives of hundreds of developmentally disabled Individuals.

COVID-19 and Students with Disabilities: What You Need to Know

With all the uncertainty in the world right now, people want answers they can count on. Schools and childcare services across districts, cities, and states are closing down with no concrete date for reopening. Public services like libraries, museums, and gyms that we often use as supplemental supports are closing their doors in light of the ban on public gatherings, and for a good reason. 

Although these measures are meant to keep us safe, they can still cause a significant strain on daily life. Parents are out of work, childcare is back in their hands, and maintaining a routine takes on a new meaning, especially if you have children with special needs.

As educators scramble to find ways to deal with this crisis and to serve families and students as best they can despite the turmoil, the education of students with disabilities must not be forgotten.

How to Talk to Your Kids About Coronavirus

Kids are curious by nature, and it’s a given that they will ask questions. Thankfully, national collectives of both psychologists and nurses have banded together to create a resource sheet for parents with inquisitive children.

Be honest and keep information age-appropriate. Help your charges understand the things that will keep them safe, including proper handwashing and not touching their faces.

Most important of all, remain calm and reassuring at all times.

Taking an Emotional Toll

It is difficult to remain calm in such a state of uncertainty. But remember that kids tend to absorb your stress, so it’s in everyone’s best interests to stay as level-headed as possible. Use stress-reduction techniques like phoning or video chatting with family and friends, keeping up with exercise, writing in a journal, meditating, or creating art.

Encourage your kids to find an outlet that makes them happy as well. Try and maintain a sense of routine. Above all, remind them that you are together as a family and that they are safe and loved. 

Children with Special Needs

Children with physical and developmental disabilities are disproportionately affected by the coronavirus. On March 12, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education released new guidance that is specifically tailored to the current health crisis and students with disabilities. The new guidance specifically addresses school closures and moving to other modes of education for students with disabilities.

Although there does not appear to be any clear answers yet, the government is looking into providing special needs education and specialized therapy via phone and internet using video and audio. Allowances for those receiving special education will be offered to keep them going and support ongoing success. It is highly recommended that we all take advantage of these supports as they are available, as maintaining a connection to your learning group will mitigate the sense of social and physical isolation.

As difficult as it is to adjust to the new reality we are facing, we have to remember that it is temporary. We will struggle together and succeed together. Stay connected and informed of new developments regarding your child’s education, access assistance as it becomes available, and use this time to connect more deeply to the ones you love.

ILA Receives Much-needed Donation of N-95 Masks

Independent Living Association has recently received a much-needed donation of N-95 masks which will be distributed to the staff of its group homes.

Thanks to the diligent work of Francis Delucia, the son of ILA’s Deputy Executive Director/Chief Financial Officer, Frank Delucia, the masks will be helpful in protecting the staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Arthur Palevsky, the Executive Director of ILA and the entire staff and administration, in addition to thanking Francis, would like to thank the following firms and companies for the donation of the masks.

* EASTEND GROUP * RESCUING FAMILIES, INC * QUICK-CAST MEDIA * JMS TECHNOLOGY * LAKESIDE MASON SUPPLIES * A LOT MAINTENANCE *

If you’re reading this message, please think of any company you know that has Personal Protective Equipment (masks, gloves and gowns). ILA is in sore need of these items to keep people with developmental disabilities healthy as well as the staff who are risking their own health to care for these Individuals. Call Arthur Palevsky with any donations, connections or ideas you have 917.613.5622.

What is Disability Culture?

While no two people with disabilities are the same, a shared understanding exists between those with disabilities. Simply put by disability scholar Steven K. Brown, “People with disabilities recognize that they share a similar, but unique, history based on common perceptions about disability.”

It should be noted that disability culture is not the same as the way a culture treats those with disabilities. Rather, it is something that comes from within the community.

So, what exactly is disability culture? Essentially, it’s any discussions, ideas, advocacies, and artistic expressions that cover topics and themes of disability. Notably, disability culture is created, cultivated, and shared by people with disabilities for people with disabilities. It is a thriving community, especially online, where the internet allows for increased accessibility, availability, and awareness.

Accessibility, Visibility, and Disability Culture Online

Often, traditional forums like meetups may fall short on accessibility. Lack of ramps and no accessible transportation are only the tip of the iceberg. Conversely, the internet is generally accessible to all and provides alternatives where they may not have previously existed.

One of the best examples of online disability culture is the Disability Visibility Project, “an online community dedicated to creating, sharing, and amplifying disability media and culture.” Here, disabled folks freely and proudly share their stories, as well as their intersecting interests, thoughts, critiques, and resources. After all, disability is not a tragic story, but rather a facet of personhood, a single aspect of a full and vibrant life.

Free social media platforms like Twitter, where disabled people can share their thoughts and experiences, are especially important. Disabled Twitter users have birthed hilarious, all-purpose hashtags like #ThingsDisabledPeopleKnow and #HowToPissOffDisabledPeople to voice their irritation with a world that doesn’t always accommodate disability.

Other mediums such as blogs, vlogs, and podcasts are also becoming trendy online, and give voice to those with disabilities of all kinds. You can find unique creators making their mark, to parents of kids with disabilities finding support in their community. Online disability culture is rich with content.

Celebrating the Culture Beyond Disability

Although the online presence of disability culture has opened the discussion up to a wider, non-disabled audience, this was not the intended purpose, but rather a happy side effect. Disability culture is created by and for disabled individuals. Perhaps most importantly, it allows conversations around disabled folks to exist within a framework of their own making.

It’s about turning the table, flipping the script of how we think and speak about disability away from one of dependence and neediness. Far from being “takers,” folks with disabilities are actively contributing to dialogue and invention. They are creating and innovating, with the added advantage of a different perspective, allowing them to think outside of the box.

Disability culture is about celebrating disability. It’s about emphasizing commonality while recognizing differences and strengths. It’s about grappling with the struggles, facing the barriers, and rejoicing in the successes of disability, while also being a part of a wider community. It’s about visibility in a world that so often overlooks disability. It’s about living with humor, wisdom, joy, grief, determination, conviction, pride, and perhaps most importantly, connection.

If you would like to learn more about Independent Living Association, our people, and our programs, reach out today.

ILA Recognizes Exceptional Employees

[Photo left to right: Anthony, Tamara and Ola hold their ILA employee recognition awards February 18]

 

As part of our culture of caring, not only for Individuals and families but also for our employees, ILA proudly reintroduced the Employee Recognition Program with the goal of acknowledging and honoring our exemplary team members.

Each month ILA honors two exceptional employees bestowing The Circle of Excellence award.  One award goes to a staff member from Staten Island and Manhattan, and one from Brooklyn and Queens.  A third award goes to an administrator for Outstanding Leadership. The criteria utilized by a newly formed Human Resources Peer Committee is “Credibility, Respect, Fellowship, Work Commitment, and Dedication.” 

On a monthly basis, supervisory personnel presents to the Committee a summary identifying why a certain employee should receive an award. To be eligible, the employee must be active for six months or longer can be part-time or full-time staff and must be in good standing. An employee can receive the award only once per year.  The due date for nominations submitted to the Director of Human Resources is the 27th of each month and the winners are announced the first week of the following month. Awardees are presented with a plaque, a monetary gift, and lunch with the Executive Director and senior-level administrators. 

The first luncheon ceremony of the newly reintroduced program was held on Tuesday, February 18, 2020 at the main offices of ILA in Brooklyn. Frank De Lucia, ILA’s Chief Financial Officer/Deputy Executive Director presented the Circle of Excellence awards to Mrs. Olawunmi “Ola” Oluokun, Direct Support Professional, Fort Hamilton IRA in Brooklyn and Anthony Quattrocchi, Direct Support Professional, Albourne Avenue IRA in Staten Island. The Outstanding Leadership Award was presented to Tamara Rowe, Assistant Residence Supervisor, Mulrooney Manor in Brooklyn

This program of employee recognition not only gives thanks to the accomplishments of these exceptional hard-working staff but also gives the administration the opportunity to discuss the many challenges to the field of working with developmentally and intellectually disabled individuals,” said Arthur Palevsky, ILA’s Executive Director. “It is one way of thanking our staff for their outstanding dedication to what they do.” 

Many thanks to Tanya Dinkins, the Manager of Administrative Services for being the spark of this program, to Tisha Jones, Director of Human Resources and to Amanda Villaces, Human Resources Manager for designing and coordinating the process of nominations and selections. 

ILA is grateful for all our employees, the stars of our team who shine and inspire us every single day.

Independent Living Association Services: You don’t have to feel like it’s you against the world

We tend to take a lot of things for granted in this world. We have everything we need at our fingertips. We have our own lives, and for the most part, we make our own way in the world.

But for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families, it’s not quite as easy as all that. Raising a child isn’t easy at the best of times, but if your child has special needs, you face unique challenges.

They may learn at a different pace than other children. They may not be able to communicate what they are feeling, or there might be social or behavioral problems. No matter what your unique experience might be, all of these things can have consequences to your psychological wellbeing.

Whether you are raising a child or caring for an adult with intellectual or developmental disabilities, you don’t have to feel like it’s you against the world. ILA is here to help.

ILA in Action

ILA was established to support individuals with special needs and their families, creating hope, providing insight, and creating opportunities for growth that may not have been possible otherwise. We work very closely with our individuals, helping them gain independence and self-sufficiency to the best of their abilities.

For the families, we want them to know they are not alone. Seeing that their loved one can thrive and be happy despite their challenges is an incredible thing. However, it doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s never without patience, love, empathy, and significant effort on the part of all involved.

The greatest reward any of us can imagine is when an individual can embrace their individuality through independence.

Ryan’s Story

Ryan has been an ILA resident for several years now. During his time here, he has made friends, developed relationships, and discovered new things that he loves to do, like go bowling and swimming. He takes care of himself, cleans up after himself, and is thriving, largely because of the skills he has learned at ILA and the confidence he’s gained because of it.

To a parent, this is perhaps the greatest gift of all. Ryan is living life, being productive, surrounded by positivity and caring, and taking on new challenges every day. His behavior has changed, he is safe and happy, and he is surrounded by people who are just like him as well as and supporting individuals, volunteers, and ILA staff who genuinely care how he feels.

Your Donations Are Important

ILA is a not-for-profit organization with more than three decades of history in New York City.

We are supported by federal and state funding, but we would not survive without private donors. Every dollar donated goes directly into programs and supports for our residents, ensuring they can continue to live their best life possible.

Without ILA, many of our residents would never have the same opportunities for independence and fulfillment. Our staff really love what they do. They work closely with residents to find out their interests and learn what makes them happy. Just like us, these individuals have hopes and dreams. Your support can help these dreams come true.

Reach out today to learn more about us, and to find out how your donations can help people like Ryan live a happy and fulfilled life.