We asked our DSP’s (Direct Support Professionals) why they love their job. We knew being a DSP was a great job and expected a good response, but what we got was more than we imagined. Many many employees sent in a few reasons, personal stories, and some even sent in long narratives about why working with people with disabilities is so rewarding. We want to share some of their stories with you, exactly as they were submitted to us. So follow us as we take you on a journey of the joys of working as a DSP!

July 24, 2013

Check out our NEW installment of stories from current admin staff at LIFEDesigns who worked as a DSP when they got into the field:

Too Special?

I started as a DSP back in 1979 in Greencastle In.  At the time I was surprised there was such a thing as a sheltered workshop and growing up had not known anyone with a disability.  My first thought after becoming a workshop floor supervisor was, “where were individuals with disabilities in my home community?”  Over the years, I learned that in Bedford where I grew up all when to a segregated school.  It always made me angry to think how I and others in my generation did not have the advantage of knowing such a great group of people and how they were considered “too special” to be in my school.  

After that first few months working at the workshop, I knew this was what I wanted to do.  For the next 30 plus years I have had many jobs in the business, a work activity supervisor, a vocational evaluator, a job developer, a director of adult services, a consultant and finally came to LIFEDesigns (then called Options) in 1998.  But working in direct service for 12 years was the best and it shaped my values in each successive position; reminding me daily why we are here.

-Susan Rinne, Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

What it’s All About

I came LIFEDesigns (then Options) in 2007. I had always wanted to do something where I could help people. I was a DSP for 3 yrs and I LOVED my job!!! I worked with a customer who had very high aggression and had a hard time working with staff. But I knew I could manage, so I took the job. And I LOVED it! I worked Direct Service for 3 yrs. The only reason I moved into the office was that I had to have some work done on my foot and had to be off my feet after that. Since I still wanted to work in this field, I came to the office to do something where I was not on my feet. I became the Office Manager. Really the best part of being the Office Manager is that I get to see the customers every day when they come to the building. I also get to work every now and then back in the field. I LOVE MY JOB. It is very rewarding to see all our customers smiling for the little things. This is what it’s all about. Each person deserves to be treated equally and made to feel like they belong. It’s also about getting customers involved in the community, and that’s what LIFEDesigns does. This is why I LOVE this company and I LOVE MY JOB!!!!!!!!!!!

-Vern Hageman, Office Manager

Fond Memories

I started as a DSP at LIFEDesigns (then called Christole) in 2003 because I wanted to work with people with Autism.  I thought the experience would help me in my career as a teacher.  I was hired as a part time summer staff and had intended to only stay the summer.  We opened a group home that year and I was able to help be a part of a team that transitioned six young boys into a new home.  What an experience!  My job was to help them feel safe in a new environment, have fun, and learn new things (not limited to a classroom setting).  As a DSP, I was able to provide input to build effective plans and structure for these boys.  I learned a great deal about working with others, communicating effectively, and other management strategies.  Direct service is where all of my fond memories come from relating to work.  Every day was a different day with challenges, successes, and learning experiences.  

-Stephanie Bryant, Quality Assurance Director

Explore the Possibilities

I have a degree in Art Education, and taught Middle School in Battle Creek, MI for 3 years. When I moved back to Bloomington I needed a job and so attended a substitute teacher meeting for MCCSC. A woman came into the meeting and said she was looking for people to work full-time with students with disabilities in a program called Community Transitions. I said “Full TIME! Sign me up!” I think a lot of people start off in this field because they need a job.

I learned so much in that first school year! When summer came I was looking for a job again and my co-worker told me about LIFEDesigns (then called Options). I was hired on as an Employee Development Manager, which at the time was a shared position with my talented predecessor, Jennifer Howlett. At first I though “Oh, crap! Someone is going to figure out that I don’t really know what I’m doing!” But with Jennifer’s guidance and cooperation I realized I really had a lot to draw on from my first year. Since the Employee Development Manager position was part time I was able to work Direct Service and create a full time schedule. This gave me more experience to draw from when teaching staff about supporting people with disabilities.

One of Suzi Rinne’s (LIFEDesigns CEO) quotes to new employees is “You are both a teacher and a student”. It’s so true! Working with anyone who is different from you makes you appreciate uniqueness, realize the variety of life, explore the possibilities! Growing up in Bloomington I thought I knew this town pretty well. But doing direct service gave me the opportunities to explore new places and experience activities I might never have had otherwise. I am grateful to work for an agency that gives me those opportunities for personal growth and a sense of importance in what I do.

I began working for Options in 2005 and was part of the merger with Christole to create LIFEDesigns in 2012- its been 8 years now! I’ve trained hundreds of staff in how to support people with disabilities to lead more self directed lives through education, employment, and community involvement. I feel I do a public service in educating everyone who comes and goes in the recognition of people with disabilities as valued, capable and contributing members of our community. What I do is important- and that makes me feel good!

-Jillian East, Employee Development Coordinator


July 12, 2013

Here are some of our first stories we received from Direct Support Professional’s (DSP’s) about why they love their job:

SMILE, you’re a DSP

“I’m a new kid on the block, but not new to relationships with people with disabilities. I have been in the healthcare profession for more than 26 years of my life. 20 of those years were spent back in the pharmacist filling your perscriptions. The other 6 years have been spent in home healthcare. In my 20 years bacl in the pharmacy I had a lot of customers with disabilities of whom I was extremely drawn to :-)

One day during rush hour I heard a voice say, ‘Ok, go on up there now and get out your checkbook and start writing your check, they are waiting on you.’ I looked at the girl talking and then looked at the person with her with a disability and said ‘Now you take your time and make out your check. You have patiently waiter for your turn and this is your turn so take your time. I smiled at her and then smiled at her staff. I said to her staff, ‘Wow, this is what you do as a job?’ And she said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘Wow, how rewarding.’ She said, ‘Oh yes, it really is.’

When I left and my lines were done I walked over to the pharmacist and said, ‘If I ever decide to leave the world of pharmacy I think I would really enjoy working with people with disabilities.’ She said, ‘Really?’ I said ‘Yes,  what a rewarding job that would be.’ She said, ‘You would be great at that.’ So here I am, 6 years later, doing what I said I would like to do.

When I think of that day and think what I am doing now, I can’t help but smile. I’m so happy to be a part of this team and play such a meaningful role in the lives of our customers.

I am happy…I look forward to each and every day. I am thrilled to have the pleasure to help them become the absolute best of what they can be.

Working with people with disabilities helps me to be patient. I’m by nature, hyper. But when I’m working with people with disabilities they make me patient and that in turn makes me have patience with them. Our customers turn me into an all around better person.

I hope I can give back to them as much as what they give to me which is priceless.

And by the way, I have drawing attention to myself and getting in the spotlight, but I could not pass up the opportunity to tell you that YES, I truly LOVE MY JOB!”

Working for Independence

“Serving the role of a Direct Support Professional, I am challenged every day to explore my community, expand my communication skills, and recognize the strengths of the customers I serve. I am honored to support individuals in a way that help them become more self-determined and independent. I love that my job is to work myself out of a job. I love that, built into my job description, is the prioritization of community integration and customer independence. I love that every day is different and filled with opportunities for learning. I love that my job encourages me to work beyond direct service, and impact the policies that affect the everyday lives of the individuals I serve. Thank you for allowing me this opportunity, I certainly love my job!”

Paid to Have Fun

“When I started working for LIFEDesigns, I was very skeptical of the job and whether or not I would be able to do what the job asked of me. I was raised with a family member who had Asbergers, but I had not been exposed to this type of care, especially with a criminal justice major. Every day I spend as a DSP gets easier and even more enjoyable. After I was completely done with training and actually working one on one with customers, I noticed how amazing and rewarding working in this field actually is. So rewarding in fact, its caused me to debate changing my major to nursing! I come to work and see the customers I work with and all of my problems and worries disappear. In the children’s group home where I work, there’s always the sound of laughter or someone who is just happy to see you and wants to play. The good outweighs the bad in this job immensely! I’ve learned so many new things working as a DSP and love the fact that in this field you are never done learning. This job feels like anything but a job sometimes. I feel as if I get paid to laugh, have fun, and play with kids who just want someone to spend time with them. It is absolutely an adventure, an adventure I’m excited to get to do. Maybe that’s why it is so easy for me to say, ‘I LOVE MY JOB!'”


Want to LOVE YOU JOB, too? Join our team! Check out our CAREERS page for more info and to apply.

THANK YOU to everyone who sent in responses. Without your wonderful dedication and care, LIFEDesigns would not be a success. You love your job and we love our employees! If you work at LIFEDesigns as a DSP and want to submit a story about why you LOVE YOUR JOB, please contact Leslie Abshier, Community Development Officer, at labshier (at) lifedesignsinc.org or Marianne Stemm, Human Resource Director, at mstemm (at) lifedesignsinc.org to share your story.

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