In September 2015, Congress reaffirmed a resolution to define National Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week as the second week of September in 2015 and 2016, reports Congress.gov. This year, it will begin September 11, explains the National Advocacy Campaign, and as organizations around the country start to prepare, many supervisors and executives are struggling to find ways to show this recognition of their staff. If you have not yet figured out your plans, you might consider some of the following celebration ideas.
Hold a Luncheon in Honor of DSPs
A company picnic or lunch can be a great way of reconnecting with your staff. It gives DSPs an opportunity to see the faces of leadership outside of a traditional setting. However, the continuous working hours of DSPs makes planning a lunch for all staff to attend difficult. As a result, you may want to plan for at least two separate lunches or dinner-like lunch.
For example, the lunch can be scheduled to take place over the two last hours and two first hours of a ship, assuming your DSPs work in 12-hour shifts. This allows staff who are coming into and getting off work an opportunity to socialize with administrative officials and one another. Obviously, if your team works three or more shifts, some may be unable to attend. But, you should at least send DSPs who cannot attend a meal while working.
Other options include simply giving DSPs an extended lunch break to attend the luncheon. This will help to show your team you appreciate them.
Talk With Your Local Government About Recognizing the Vital Role of DSPs with Yellow Flag Day
Yellow flags are a long-standing symbol of caring for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, explains Physiopedia, and simply flying a yellow flag at your facility and local community centers can go a long way in showing appreciation for DSPs and raising awareness.
Consider asking your city council to fly yellow flags throughout National DSP Recognition Week, and if possible, pass out sticky-backed yellow ribbons to your DSPs. Avoid pin-on ribbons as pins could be dangerous to both staff members and those you serve.
Include a message on the yellow ribbons. It does not have to be extravagant, but you should sign the ribbon and add a personal note. With DSPs on the front lines of your organization, show you understand with the two simplest words in existence, “Thank You.”
Host a Festival
How many staff members are involved in your organization? Think about the number of social workers, therapists and case managers. Think of everyone. Now, consider what staff members spend the most time with the individuals you serve. Chances are good your answer is DSPs, and your community needs to recognize this fact too.
Hosting a festival is an excellent way to encourage community participation in National DSP Recognition Week. Sometimes, the community does not understand the role DSPs play in caring for those with disabilities. Too often, communities only think of doctors and nurses, but DSPs provide invaluable social skills and hands-on learning opportunities to those you serve.
A festival can be anything you imagine. It can include arts and crafts, baking contests, exercise, games involving the people you serve and their family members, and everything else. If you really want to add to the excitement, have a pie-in-the-face contest with you as the person on the receiving end! If you do, make the “pies” out of paper plates filled with whipped cream. It makes things much easier to clean up too.
Festivals can be all-encompassing events, so you may want to try to limit the number of activities at a festival for DSP Recognition Week. Organize the festival in a way that encourages social interaction with those you serve and all staff members, including DSPs. This goes beyond showing appreciate for DSPs, it gives them a sense of community in your organization, which also applies to those you serve.
Give DSPs the “Shirt off Your Back.”
Personalized items, such as shirts, hats or wristbands, are both cost-effective and fun ways to reconnect with DSPs. However, simply passing out shirts can be somewhat boring. Instead, choose a member of the administration to put on as many t-shirts as possible. As each DSP comes up to the front, have the administrator take a “shift off his or her back” to give to the DSP. It is fun and is sure to get everyone laughing.
This idea only works for one size, and there will be a limited number of shirts an administrator can put on. So, make this way of distributing recognition t-shirts part of the kickoff event for the most recognized DSPs.
For example, use this method of passing out shirts for DSPs who did not have any unexcused absences for the last quarter. Try to limit the number of shirts to 15-20, and if it is still hot outdoors, put the t-shirts in a backpack. Each time a shirt is handed out, the administrator can bend backward to let the DSP pick up his or her shirt.
Hold a Food Drive!
A food drive brings the community together with your organization, and food items donated may very well go to help those you serve directly. Encourage DSPs to work with people in teams of five to six to run the food drive, and depending on the total food collected, pass out an award to the highest-performing team.
The food drive is also an opportunity to pass out gift cards, if you choose, to your DSPs. In fact, you could make it a social event by asking local pizzerias or fast-food vendors to donate meals to feed those working the food drive.
It’s Time to Start Planning
All of these fun events to reconnect with DSPs can be planned quickly. If you have not yet figured out what to do yet, you still have time. National Direct Support Professional Recognition Week ends September 17. However, the fun can last as long as you want, and you can get the community involved with these ideas too. DSPs deserve your recognition, and without them, you might not be as effective in helping those you serve. So, take a few minutes to think about what you want to do for them now.