NADSP E-Badge Earner of the Month: Allison Austin

by | May 22, 2024 | News

Congratulations to Allison Austin, DSP-III,​ who has been selected as the May 2024 NADSP E-Badge Academy Earner of the Month. We are recognizing Allison for her excellent “Researcher,” E-Badge submission. This badge represents a direct support professionals’ work in seeking feedback from many sources in use to improve work performance and skills. This badge is part of the Education, Training and Self-Development CMS Core Competency. It also aligns with the NADSP Competency Area of Education, Training and Self-Development.

Allison works as a Employment Specialist at Core Services of Northeast Tennessee in Johnson City, Tennessee. The mission of Core Services of Northeast Tennessee is to commit to empowering people with intellectual disabilities to live a shared vision of a valued life in connection with family, friends and community life. To learn more, click here.

Allison’s Experiences With The NADSP E-Badge Academy

The National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) recently asked Allison about her experiences with the NADSP E-Badge Academy. The questions covered how she carries out her work as a direct support professional, the skillsets she demonstrates on a daily basis, the impact that the E-Badge Academy has had on her professional recognition, and how she gets credit for competency.

Describe the story you shared in carrying out that competency:

I told of my work with “Allan” a young man on the autism spectrum. “Allan” struggled with social interaction but expressed immense passion and detailed knowledge about anime. My knowledge of anime was somewhat limited; therefore, I sometimes missed his cultural references, which would hinder our conversations and, ultimately, our connection. As such, I set about researching online resources, and consulting with colleagues familiar with anime. I learned about popular genres, common tropes, and the cultural significance of anime, which I began to incorporate into conversations with “Allan.” I asked him about his favorite shows, characters, and plotlines. This sparked his enthusiasm and allowed him to share his expertise comfortably. By demonstrating a genuine interest in his passion, I built trust and rapport with “Allan.” He felt understood and valued, which fostered a stronger connection between us.

Why is this competency so important to DSPs?

Through research, we can become more knowledgeable about the people we are supporting, their culture, social network, personality, preferences, needs, strengths, gifts, and circumstances, and as such, DSPs can better tailor their support to individual client needs, promoting greater independence, participation, and overall well-being.

How have you used this competency in your work?

Over the years, I have had different opportunities to learn new ideas and concepts while working. I have found myself in unique situations where I have researched different cultural holiday traditions, religious food restrictions, odd trivia facts about 80’s hair bands, and the list goes on. In fact, I am currently working with a young lady whose favorite band of the moment is the Beatles. Researching her favorite bands and staying informed is important to building and maintaining our rapport.

How can other DSPs replicate your practices?

We must be willing to open our minds and learn new ideas and concepts, whether we agree with them or not. Learn to listen and then don’t be afraid to ask questions. Pay attention to what they watch on television, the music they listen to, or the books they read, attend their churches, etc. Learn to connect. Then do your research.

How does the NADSP E-Badge Academy benefit your agency?

The NADSP E-Badge Academy provides several benefits to our agency, such as offering a formal way to acknowledge the knowledge, skills and experience of DSPs through badges and certifications. This can boost staff morale and demonstrate to clients and families that the agency invests in well-trained professionals. The E-Badge Academy also encourages continuous learning and reinforces best practices,
potentially leading to a better quality of care provided by staff. And lastly, by encouraging staff to pursue NADSP badges, our agency can promote a more standardized approach to care delivery that aligns with the NADSP Code of Ethics and national best practices.

How does NADSP E-Badge Academy benefit the people you support?

By encouraging DSPs to pursue NADSP badges, the Academy promotes a program where staff are continuously developing their knowledge and skills in line with nationally recognized best practices. This means the people we support are likely to receive care from staff who are up-to-date on best practices and well-equipped to meet their individual needs. With a more qualified workforce, the Academy can contribute to a higher standard of care for the people we support. This can encompass better communication, a more person-centered approach, and a stronger understanding of how to support individual needs and goals.

The Academy’s recognition system with badges and certifications can boost staff morale and confidence. This can translate into more positive interactions and better overall support experience for the people we care for. And lastly, when staff feel valued and have opportunities for professional development, they are more likely to stay with the agency. This can lead to greater stability in the lives of the people we support, as they build stronger relationships with their caregivers.

What does the future hold for your involvement in the NADSP E-Badge Academy?

As I gain more experience, I could potentially pursue higher-level badges (FLS). With my experience with the Academy, I may eventually consider taking on a leadership role within my agency. This could involve promoting the program to coworkers, or even advocating for its use at conferences or workshops. Potentially, the Academy might incorporate new technologies to enhance the learning experience. I could be a valuable source of feedback as these features are developed and implemented. As the Academy continues to gain traction, my experience could be valuable in informing policy discussions and advocacy efforts related to DSP qualifications and training standards. As more DSPs engage with the Academy, my experience can position me as a mentor for new participants. In fact, I have begun to share my knowledge and help others navigate the program within our agency, fostering a strong and supportive professional community. Overall, my continued involvement in the NADSP E-Badge Academy can be mutually beneficial. I’ll have opportunities for professional growth and recognition, while also contributing to shaping the future of a program that elevates the standards of direct support care.

How has NADSP E-Badge Academy affected your professional image?

Earning e-badges demonstrates my commitment to ongoing learning and mastery of specific skills relevant to my DSP work. This has boosted my sense of accomplishment and solidified my professional identity as someone who takes pride in their work and provides quality care. Also, the Academy curriculum aligns with the NADSP Code of Ethics and national best practices. Therefore, by participating, I’ve actively aligned myself with the professional standards of the field, strengthening my sense of belonging and purpose within the DSP community.

When I reflect on my learning and some of the specific badges I earned, I look at what skills and knowledge do they represent, and whether I feel more comfortable and confident handling certain tasks or situations. As I completed different competencies and earned badges, I realized I have been honing my skills and developing new ones with each new experience, thereby making me more capable in my role as a DSP. Additionally, the Academy offers badges in various areas relevant to DSP work, and by completing these programs, I’ve also acquired new knowledge and learned new techniques that I can apply in my work with the people I support. So, yes. I feel more skilled.

How has NADSP E-Badge Academy given you credit for competency?

The NADSP E-Badge Academy awards credit for competency through a two-pronged approach involving earning badges and providing evidence of my skills. Once I earned a badge and provided the required evidence, it signified that I had met the competency standards set by the Academy. These badges became a tangible representation of my skills and knowledge. Therefore, earning badges demonstrated my commitment to my professional development and allowed me to showcase my expertise to employers, supervisors, and the people I support. Overall, the NADSP E-Badge Academy provided a structured system for acknowledging my competency as a DSP. By earning badges and submitting relevant evidence, I gained valuable credentials that validated my skills and knowledge in the field of direct support.

Well Wishes from Allison’s Agency

We are very proud of Allison Austin in receiving this recognition.  In addition to achieving credentials as a DSP III, Allison has gone on to achieve additional credentials in technology, employment and behavior specialist.  She also leads an e-Badge Academy support group to help others achieve their goals.  Allison exemplifies the ideals of the Direct Support Professional!

 The NADSP e-Badge Academy has provided Core Services of Northeast Tennessee a wonderful opportunity for Direct Support Professionals to gain new knowledge and skills while gaining professional credentials. The Tennessee’s TENNCare program recently partnered with the NADSP e-Badge Academy generating even more interest within our agency and an opportunity for DSP to earn cash incentives for their participation.  The opportunity to gain professional credentials is a source of pride for everyone involved and has had a positive impact on employees and agency alike.  Core Services Direct Support Professionals have become involved in DSP Advocacy efforts on both a national and state level.  The agency DSP retention rate continues to rise, while the DSP vacancy rate has plummeted.  The NADSP e-Badge Academy is a wonderful opportunity to create a virtuous cycle of growth and learning for employees and agency alike. 

-Susan Arwood, Executive Director

The NADSP E-Badge Academy

The NADSP E-Badge Academy offers Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) and Frontline Supervisors (FLSs)  the ability to earn national certification through stackable electronic badges. These badges demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and values that these professionals utilize every day, recognizing the professional development that might otherwise go unacknowledged.  Through the NADSP E-Badge Academy, DSPs and FLSs are acknowledged for the experience and education that they bring to the human services field.

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