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August 15, 2022

Job Spotlight: Habilitation Support Professionals

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Woman and younger woman with  Down Syndrome using laptop at home

HSPs Build Bridges to Independence

habilitation \ hə- ˌbi- lə- ˈtā- shən  \ noun:

The process of teaching an individual to live a safe, independent, and boundless life.

In Boundless adult day programs, our team of caring and committed habilitation support professionals (HSP) do exactly what their title suggests—help day program participants focus on community inclusion opportunities and skill building. But to say that’s all HSPs do would be an understatement. HSPs embody all the Boundless values of empowerment, excellence, love, respect, and well-being. They patiently and skillfully guide adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) through volunteer activities, learning opportunities in the community, and employment skill building.

HSPs lead participants through activities like music therapy, dance therapy, or yoga. According to Suzette Sayre, director of community living, Northeast Ohio, “We don’t expect HSPs to know all about each activity, but on the individual side, they need to be engaging and ensure that they assist our individuals to participate.”

For someone looking into a career as an HSP, Suzette said that the most important qualities are patience and caring. “No one wants the grumpy nurse, and it’s exactly the same with HSPs.” Being a great communicator will take an HSP far since much of the job is explaining and assisting individuals. It’s a bonus if HSPs come to Boundless already familiar with individual service plans (ISPs), but Boundless is happy to train HSPs on the ISP process.

Frequent HSP Activities

Art therapy is a popular activity in Boundless day programs. By combining psychology and art, participants are encouraged to freely express themselves through drawing or painting. This can help them express their goals and likes and dislikes, as well as teach healthy coping mechanisms. Boundless HSPs answer questions from participants, aid them in selecting the colors they want and ensure the environment stays clean even during messy activities.

Music therapy is similar to art therapy and introduces participants to new sounds and instruments. Participants learn how to play new instruments and work as a team to create cohesive sound and melody. It’s a fun group activity that develops communication and social skills. HSPs also learn how to use the instruments and assist participants if they have trouble.

Dance therapy is a favorite in day programs because it gets everyone up and moving. Not only is it a form of self-expression, but it’s also a healthy activity that’s enjoyable for everyone. It teaches participants to coordinate their movements. It is also often taught as a metaphor for communication, helping participants imagine communicating something to another person. HSPs act as that “other person” in the dance of communication and play an essential role in engaging all participants.

One of the most meaningful parts of day programs is the self-advocacy groups. Twice a month, a group gathers to learn more about how they, as individuals with I/DD, can make a difference in the larger I/DD community. Topics range from learning about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to government participation. This group focuses not only on self-advocacy but on how to advocate for peers that might not be able to advocate for themselves.

Another component of day programs is vocational training. From resume building to skill training, a primary function of all Boundless day programs is preparing participants to enter the workforce. In this way, the HSP job is very similar to workforce specialists, except HSPs usually serve six to twelve individuals at a time. They support participants in learning to write a resume, make a to-do list, and ask questions if they need more direction.

Why You Should Become an HSP

You’ll hear from any agency that serves I/DD populations how they can offer you a rewarding career. While this is undeniably true, habilitation at Boundless is on another level because we are just as committed to our employees as we are to the people we serve.

Working as an HSP will expose you to dozens of activities and career paths you might not have thought of before. For many people, the HSP job informs what they want to do with the rest of their career. Boundless supports the career of all its employees through scholarships, tuition assistance, and internal advancement opportunities. If any HSP job activities are of particular interest to you, Boundless will empower you to learn more and become an expert.

What you discover as an HSP isn’t limited to just what you learn from the job itself. You will also learn a huge amount from the individuals you serve. Suzette, who began her career as a direct support professional and transitioned into HSP work before becoming the director of community living, expressed gratitude for her experiences at all levels. “You will learn so many things from your individuals. I don’t think they’ve learned as much from me as I’ve learned from them.”

When asked to give words of advice to someone considering a career as an HSP, she said, “We are one big team that supports each other, whether it’s one department to another, one peer to another, or a director working the floor,” she said.  “You will never be alone at Boundless.”

To learn more about openings for HSPs at Boundless, visit our careers page today.


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