When the residents at Penn-Mar’s community home #12 in White Hall, Maryland, are gathered in the kitchen preparing dinner, the routine often hits “pause” when Direct Support Professional (DSP) Kas Jasinski feels the need to dance.
“I get sidetracked whenever I hear music,” she admits. And the four gentlemen with disabilities she supports in the home are only too happy to stop whatever they’re doing and join in on the fun.
Kas is a great believer that music soothes the soul and she uses it to great effect to create a “happy place filled with peace” for the men she supports in her group home.
Kas and her team are responsible for keeping the house running smoothly, making sure medical appointments are up-to-date, scheduling staff and social events and staying current with paperwork.
But Kas will be the first to tell you that the most important part of the job is helping the men lead full, rich lives. “We sing, dance, tease, play, do puzzles and play cards,” she says.
And that’s just for starters.
Outings to the zoo, museums, walks on the nearby Rail Trail and afternoons at the movies and bowling alley are regular pursuits that are helping to literally transform lives.
Kas was one of the first DSPs to recently be certified by Penn-Mar’s inaugural Career Ladders Program — a career development and credentialing program launched in the fall of 2016.
“Career Ladders helped me grow personally and professionally and gave me confidence that I didn’t have before,” she raved. “You don’t know what you don’t know, and this program helped me to learn about new best practices and taught me to think about how we do so many things every day by rote when we should be questioning why we do things and the process, outcomes, and consequences of all our actions.”
Kas is now “paying it forward,” serving as a Cohort Leader for the next group of DSPs embarking on the Career Ladder program.
“We are basically encouragers,” said Kas. “We work with the group to help them mull over subjects and topics and give them ideas on what they should be focusing on. It can be daunting to pull together ideas and resources such as videos, PowerPoint presentations, photos. We’re there to guide the DSPs and keep them on track so that they can successfully complete their 100 hours of study and research.”
Kas also supported her fellow DSPs by joining a group from Penn-Mar who traveled to Annapolis in February to plead their case to legislators to make good on the 3.5% wage increase that had been promised to DSPs.
“The parents of our individuals with disabilities really spoke from their heart, talking about how hard it is for their loved ones to get attached to their DSPs and then see them rotate out of their lives because they can’t afford to work at a job they love. It’s like losing a friend or member of their family,” she said. “They grieve at the loss and it can cause behavioral problems.”
Kas recounted how wonderful it was to see how the Annapolis experience empowered the individuals as well. “They are usually in a position to receive help and this was a way for them to give back and advocate for us.”
“The world has thrown many stumbling blocks in front of individuals with disabilities,” she noted. “It’s our job to remove as many of these obstacles as we can. Those of us who are chosen to work with them are blessed beyond measure. They enrich our lives in ways you simply can’t imagine.”