Support Professional Resources

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As direct support professionals working with individuals with autism on a daily basis, you may be working to address a variety of concerns, collaborate with different family members and professionals, and coordinate services from a number of systems. Your time is limited and we know it is important to provide you with resources and training support that is accessible to your needs and schedule. This resource collection was created with the goal of providing accessible training and content for direct support professionals.

This bundle organized by nine major categories below, with eight infographics that also have an associated online Prezi training to walk through the content more in-depth. Each infographic indicates the competency they meet, an introduction of the content and strategies to support individuals. Resources were developed in collaboration with the Office of Developmental Programs (ODP): Bureau of Autism Services (BAS), the Autism Services, Education, Resources and Training (ASERT) Collaborative Eastern Region, and Consultant Val Paradiz.

There are also additional resources from the rest of the ASERT website that are relevant to direct support professionals. We hope this resource is helpful to you, and we look forward to continuing to build on this collection.

Information about Autism

Characteristics of Autism

This resource, designed for direct support staff, provides a basic introduction to the different characteristics of autism.

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The Spectrum of Communication

Communication permits us to advocate for our needs, develop relationships, and participate in our community. When supporting someone with Autism, the most important thing to keep in mind at all times is that speech does not equal communication.

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Mental Health

Stress, Anxiety and Depression

Stress, anxiety, and depression are common challenges that many people face. It is important to recognize these challenges in individuals that your support - though the expressions and triggers may vary depending on the situation.

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Noticing Signs of Mental Health

It is natural to experience emotional ups and downs. Life events affect everyone, and some of us are more vulnerable to experiencing mental health challenges because of life events both past and present. This resource provides information identify, intervene and prevent mental illness.

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Trauma and Coping

This resource, developed by ASERT, provides information for direct support professionals working with individuals who have autism on understanding what trauma is, identifying triggers, and learning strategies to help them support individuals who may have experienced trauma.

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Relationships

Fostering Interpersonal Relationships

The associations we have with others are a critical part of our lives. Our interpersonal relationships provide love, support, and a connectedness that all of us need. Through interpersonal relationships we learn about ourselves, how we affect others, and we get feedback about who we are as human beings. It is no different for those on the Autism spectrum. While differences in social interaction are a defining characteristic of Autism, autistic individuals desire interpersonal relationships just as much as anyone else. In your work you are in a position to support another person in meeting their needs for connection. Using some of the techniques below, you can help the person you support to explore and establish new relationships and deepen existing ones.

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Identity, Sexuality and Interpersonal Relationships

This resource, developed by ASERT, provides information for direct support staff on how to support individuals with autism around the topics of sexuality, gender identity, and interpersonal relationships.

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Daily Life

Encouraging Independence

This resource provides information for direct support staff on how they can encourage the individuals with autism they support to be more independent in their lives.

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Supporting New Habits

This resource, developed by ASERT, provides information for direct support staff and others working with individuals who have autism on how to help teach new skills and support new habits.

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Adjusting to New Situations

Change is part of everyday life. The ability to change is central to our growth as individuals. For people with autism, who often rely on predictability and routine to feel calm and safe, change can affect them differently. Adjusting to new situations may be met with anxiety, fear, or resistance. Fortunately, there are strategies you can use to ease adjustment to new situations.

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Rapport Building

Relating Personally and Professionally

The work of a direct support professional is very important. However, the professional must keep in mind the importance of balancing things, such as how much assistance you offer versus how much you can foster independence, when working with someone with autism.

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Building a Relationship of Mutual Respect

This specific resource provides professionals with information on building relationships with individuals on the autism spectrum.

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Communication Works Both Ways

This resource provides information for direct support staff about the communication needs of individuals with autism, particularly those individuals who have spoken language.

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Goal Setting

Individualizing Support for Individuals with Autism

This resource, developed by ASERT for direct support professionals, provides information on how to create a person-centered approach that is focused on individual strengths and abilities when working with individuals who have autism.

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Identifying Strengths and Supporting Needs

This resource developed for direct support staff, provides information on how to identify strengths of the individuals you support as well as how to support their needs.

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Future Planning

This resource, developed by ASERT, provides information on direct support staff on how they can support individuals with autism to plan for their futures.

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Safety and Crisis Management

Supporting Safe Behavior

This resource, developed by ASERT, provides information for direct support staff on how to support individuals with autism who may engage in challenging behavior and ways that support staff can help keep everyone safe.

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Risk Identification and Reporting

Individuals with autism, like other individuals with disabilities, may be considered a “vulnerable” population. Identifying when someone you support is engaging in behavior that puts him or her at risk is critical to your support role.

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Crisis Intervention and De-Escalation

In your direct support to adults with Autism, it is possible that you will encounter moments of crisis. A crisis can be triggered by environmental, social and communication stressors, changes in schedules or routines, task anxiety, and other factors. Crisis looks different for every individual, but in each situation, there will be a period of escalation before the crisis and then a de-escalation. Below you’ll find a helpful strategy for navigating how you can recognize and respond to an individual you’re supporting when he or she is escalating, in crisis, or de-escalating.

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Professionalism

Removing Personal Judgement

This resource, developed by ASERT, provides information and suggestions for direct support staff on how they can work to remove their own personal thoughts and judgements when working with individuals with autism.

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Service Navigation

Using Vision Boards to Find Community Supports

This resource from ASERT provides information for direct support staff on using vision boards to find supports within a community such as meet-up groups and activities.

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Community Involvement

The experiences we have within our community are as important as our experiences in the privacy of our homes. Being engaged in the community makes us feel connected and safe. People with Autism gain much from community involvement. They also play an important role in enriching communities by adding to diversity within communities. Consider the strategies below in supporting community involvement and teaching the relationship-building skills necessary to engaging with neighbors, businesses, service providers, faith-based organizations, and outlets for leisure activities. Interview the person you support and map a plan together for community involvement.

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Navigating Health Services

This resource, developed by ASERT, provides information for direct support staff on how to help the individuals they support to navigate different health services and systems.

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Finding Resources

Supporting an individual with autism to find resources within his or her neighborhood, town, county or broader metropolitan region provides a unique opportunity for you to teach fundamental skills in community living. One method of teaching these skills is to involve the person you support in researching, contacting, and connecting with local and regional resources. By scaffolding network building in gradual steps that consider the individual’s needs and learning process, you can empower him or her to play a more active role in shaping his community involvement. Below is a helpful planning tool to get you started. Try to complete as many steps as possible with the person you support.

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This information was developed by the Autism Services, Education, Resources, and Training Collaborative (ASERT). For more information, please contact ASERT at 877-231-4244 or info@PAautism.org. ASERT is funded by the Bureau of Supports for Autism and Special Populations, PA Department of Human Services.