September 12, 2023 |

The Impact of a DSP: Sheila and Waylon

Waylon joined Black Hills Works two years ago, moving from the South Dakota Developmental Center in Redfield to participate in our behavioral health program. He loves to be outside, go to the park, and visit car shows and monster truck rallies. He likes his staff, especially Sheila, who also serves as his advocate. “Black Hills Works is Waylon’s family,” she says. He always waves excitedly from his window when he sees her arrive at the Black Hills Works apartment building where he lives. 

Sheila herself began working at Black Hills Works in November 2022, and she knew right away this was the place for her. “This is my calling. I like to help people and offer support.”

The behavioral health program provides a range of services to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are also experiencing high mental health needs. Supports are provided with opportunities to overcome their behavioral challenges. 

Sheila notes, “Most of the people supported in this program don’t have family or many informal supports. That is what makes me so passionate about my job! I want to help the people I support to have the safe and fulfilling life they deserve.”

The growth that Waylon has experienced in his short time at Black Hills Works is astounding. “He is a testament to the power of good supports,” Sheila proudly reports. “He’s very fun and likes to be around groups.”

When he first joined Black Hills Works, Waylon used a wheelchair, was nonverbal, and was almost noncommunicative. Staff worked diligently with him to build muscle strength. He is now able to walk with a walker and has much more freedom as a result! Through speech therapy, he is learning to use a communication tablet. Waylon also uses sign language with his staff. With a chart, he can choose a restaurant to eat at every Tuesday. He uses the pictures at Walmart.com to indicate to his staff what food he would like to purchase as they plan his weekly menus.

The Black Hills Works assistive technology team, along with staff like Sheila, have been instrumental in supporting positive behavioral changes. Waylon loves going for rides so much that he often refused to go back into the building upon returning home. By adding wheels to a large sled, the assistive technology team created a fun game that helped Waylon transition more easily back into the building.

Waylon isn’t the only one, however, who has experienced benefits. Working in the behavioral health program has impacted Sheila personally. “People take so much for granted. This job reminds me every day of how much I have to be grateful for. It also has helped me be a better mom. My experiences here have shown me what is important to teach and show my kids.”

Sheila says that, when you’re employed as a DSP (direct support professional) or behavioral health technician, “The positivity you receive from the people we support makes it all worth it. You know you are making a difference! The training you receive and the team you’ll be working with are phenomenal! At the end of the day, we are all in this together to ensure the people we support are living their best lives.” 

Thanks to the passion and commitment of Black Hills Works staff like Sheila, hundreds of individuals we support, including Waylon, are thriving and growing. Our direct support staff are the heart of all that we do, and our entire community is a better place because of them.

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