We all have a need to belong, to build lasting relationships. These relationships (or the lack of them) can impact our mental, physical, and emotional health, especially at work, where we spend the majority of our time. Positive relationships at work can boost our morale, encourage us to collaborate, and even inspire us to be creative.
Since people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) tend to have smaller social circles, relationships may be even more important to them. Individuals with I/DD say that belonging is crucial for their overall wellbeing, and that staff-client relationships—especially stable relationships with direct support professionals—are essential to their quality of life.
For John Chatterton, and other long-term ALSO employees, it’s the long-standing relationships that make ALSO a great place for disability advocates, and for the individuals ALSO supports.
John had never worked with people with I/DD before coming to ALSO. He began his career with ALSO as a direct support professional in 1998. After just three months, he applied to be a Med Tech (a position now called ”Lead Staff”). He got the job, but he wasn’t there long—in three weeks he became a manager. He didn’t stay there long, either, as the program director recruited him to work alongside him. “I was lucky enough that I had supervisors who saw my potential and gave me the opportunity to really step up and have an impact on how we do things here,” says John, “This agency saw something in me that allowed me to become the leader I am today.”
Today, John works as ALSO’s Associate Director in Residential Services. It’s an administrative position, but a very people-oriented one. “I like what I do. it gives me the opportunity to foster the leadership role of managers in the agency,” he says. “It also allows me to continue to have interactions with people that we support, which is ultimately why we’re all here. That’s what kept me here for the last twenty-five-plus years.”
“We want people to feel that they’re cared about. And that’s not only the people we support, but the people that we employ.” John is impressed by the way ALSO demonstrates this care. “We’re an agency that really wants to foster people to be themselves, and to do their best for the people we support. We’re not a top-down agency. We want people’s ideas— for them to feel that they have a voice in the agency. If I think I know the best way to do something, and someone else tells me about something that’s working for them that is better than what I do, I’m all for that, and I think most people here are.”
It’s all about the people for John. “Relationships are everything,” he says. “I’ve formed lasting relationships with a lot of individuals, and I’ve had the opportunity to see them grow, succeed, and thrive in life. I’m happy to be a part of that…The other part is the long-term relationships I’ve formed with employees here. I mean, I met my wife here.” John and Miranda Chatterton, ALSO’s Supported Employment Manager, met in 2000 while working at ALSO. They married in 2002.
Aside from his marriage, John thinks his long-term relationships with some of the individuals ALSO supports may be the most impactful. “I’ve kind of become that history piece for the people we support who can’t speak for themselves.” He believes it’s especially important for people who don’t communicate with words to have relationships with disability advocates who can tell newer staff about the individual’s history. “It’s helpful to have people around who can tell you what people are like now, versus what they were like. Not that the past means everything, but it does play an important role in people’s lives, especially for the people we support.”
ALSO plays another important role in John’s life. “Brett (Turner), my boss, he always says he wants this agency to be one he would choose to support his family. I can honestly say this agency supports people in my family, and I’m happy that we are the ones supporting them.”
He’s also happy with the impact that he personally makes on other people’s lives and vice versa. “I could be having the worst day in the world, and I can go to one of our programs and see people doing what they love to do, and everything I was frustrated about goes away. It’s that human connection. That’s what keeps the world turning.”
“I’ve never worked anywhere else that does this kind of work, but everyone I know either wants to stay here or if they went away, they want to come back,” John says. ”We’ve got to be doing something right.”
If you are looking to work for an agency that does things right, that cares about people, and encourages a long-lasting work relationship, check out ALSO’s career opportunities. We have a variety of career-oriented jobs working with people with disabilities.
And if you’re looking for disability support services for yourself or a family member, talk to us. We provide support—from residential services to supported employment—that offers more than help with activities of daily living. We offer a sense of belonging. Learn more about us and/or register for a free tour today!
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