What makes a good support worker?

Top 5 suggestions

DSC_0052The NDIS will see many new disability support workers entering the field and it will be very important that people are choosing to be supported by someone who is a good match for them.

It’s important that a support worker is not only someone who is caring and supportive, but is also a person who can make you feel empowered, independent and included in the community.

Here are 5 ways you can be a good support worker

  1. The support worker must be able to step back to allow the person they support to be independent.
    Sometimes the support person doesn’t realise that they are the barrier to inclusion. Sometimes the support worker can feel like they aren’t doing their job if they stand back and let the person communicate and interact directly in the community…when that’s really the aim! It’s important that the support worker facilitates a person’s independence and that can sometimes include stepping back.

    Pro tip: Stand behind the person you support, to encourage people in the community to speak directly to the person you’re supporting.
  2. Encourage people in the community to speak to the person you support directly.
    As well as stepping back, you can direct people in the community to communicate directly with the person you support, especially if they have communication difficulties. By doing this, you educate people in the community of equal opportunity and rights.
    Pro tip: Try politely saying “Please ask [person’s name]. They will let you know what they want”, or “[Person’s name] understands everything you said, please just wait while she types her response”
  3. Use augmentative and alternative communication aids.
    Use community request cards and visual schedules to promote independence for people with communication difficulties. Scope’s Communication and Inclusion Resource Centre (CIRC) hold free open days at Box Hill where you can come and see a range of tools that may give you ideas to help a person you’re working with. Check out the calendar to see when the next CIRC Open Day is.

    Pro tip: An individual or a support worker can apply for a non-electronic communication resource through the Non-Electronic Communication Aid Scheme for free for those who are eligible
  4. Don’t make assumptions about a person’s ability
    It’s important that a support worker never assumes a person can’t do something, or does something for the person, thinking it will ‘just be easier’ that way.There’s definitely an art to support working, and you will learn that each person will like to be supported in their own way.If you’re not sure, ask! It’s the best way to know if you’re doing a good job, or if a person would like you to do something different.

    Pro tip: There’s a difference between ‘awkward silence’ and ‘pause time’. For some people with communication difficulties, it’s ok to have silence between you while a person processes what you’ve said, or prepares their message to say back to you.
  5. Think outside the box
    Essentially your role as a support worker is to enable that person to achieve their goal. It means to do things that other people think they can’t do (sometimes yourself included). It’s important to therefore think outside the box. Have an open mind! A positive can-do attitude goes a long way. Whether it’s supporting a person to ride in a hot air balloon, to join a new club, or even independently order their own food at a restaurant, focus on the goal and work on the barrier. Your role is to support that person to do what they want and make it happen. Perhaps it’s not something you can do all at once – and that’s ok. It all can be part of an exciting journey!
Pro tip: If what the person wants to do seems like a challenge, try writing small, achievable goals that you and the person you support can achieve over time.

Being a disability support worker is an important role in the community. You can enable a person to do things they never imagined. You can positively impact that person’s life to be more confident, independent, empowered and included in society. How great is that?