Nominate Your Direct Support Professional for Roman Award

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This article was contributed by Kerri Erb, Chief Program Officer.

This week, Direct Support Professional Recognition Week, we are taking time to honor our staff members who provide critical support for individuals with autism. Every day, they work one-to-one with individuals with autism, teaching skill acquisition and supporting them in reaching their life goals. In addition to staff, many become trusted friends, natural supports, and honorary members of families.

Each year in September, ASNC accepts nominations for the John and Claudia Roman Direct Service Award. The annual award was endowed by Lori and Gregg Ireland to honor Christine Roman, the direct service professional who worked with their son, Vinnie. It was named for her parents, John and Claudia Roman. Families who are served by the Autism Society of North Carolina for this award may obtain a nomination from by emailing Kathy Cockrell. Nominations will be accepted through Sept. 30.

The Autism Society of North Carolina employs hundreds of direct support professionals; without their dedication and continued efforts, many individuals on the autism spectrum and their families would not have needed support services. Some come to work for ASNC for a few months, others stay for a lifetime.

DSPs are the largest percentage of ASNC’s employees, and we learn how to improve what we do as an organization and as a system from them. Many full-time ASNC employees and managers got their start in the field through direct support work. Because of this understanding throughout the organization of the importance of DSPs, our ultimate hope is that an individual with autism’s life is improved in some way through their work.

Last year’s winner of the Roman Award was Melissa Mulcahey of Asheville, a community skills instructor who had worked with ASNC for five years. Jillian Martin, one of the mothers who nominated Mulcahey, said that when Mulcahey came to work with Martin’s son Jace four years ago, she immediately learned the Applied Behavior Analysis program that the family was using with him.

“Jace’s skills flourished soon after she joined what we call Team Jace,” Martin wrote. “His vast improvement in language, reading, and completion of tasks were a direct reflection of her countless hours and tireless efforts to make Jace successful.

“It’s because of people like her that our kids are loved and accepted, our families are comforted, and we can all attempt to have the most ‘neurotypical’ life possible,” Martin wrote.

We invite you to give your DSP a pat on the back, or make a donation in his or her honor, for a job well done this week (or any week).

Kerri Erb can be reached via email at kerb@autismsociety-nc.org or by phone at 919-865-5053 or 800-442-2762, ext. 1102.

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