Shannon’s Story

Woman with blue eyes and face mask with girl smilingFinding myself at a crossroads was a defining moment in my life. Being a wife, mom, and nanny for the last 28 years labeled me; I was a Homemaker (who made some spending money babysitting).  I was happy and content, but never felt like I contributed to society. I threw myself into community services, teaching church school, volunteering at the Regional Food Pantry, and trying to fill the void of wanting to have a purpose. I love my family and the several children I have had a hand in raising over the years, but as the final curtain comes to a close, as the last two preschoolers I babysit head to kindergarten this fall, I am shifting gears and trying something new… Enter AIM Services!

I mentioned to a friend of a friend that I was looking to spread my wings and go in a different direction. She works for the AIM Services. I took a chance, picked up the phone, and found myself speaking to a very nice woman in Human Resources.  Thinking back on my past jobs, I realized that they were all “pre-children”, and I have not put together a resume or references for quite a few years. I was treading unchartered waters; it had been so long since I had worked outside the home. My experience working with individuals of diverse abilities was very limited. A plethora of questions entered my mind, but the biggest one of all was- “Can I do this?”  During the first few days at the residential home where I work, I sat back, I watched, I listened and learned. Staff was warm and welcoming during my training and guided me as I began to build relationships with each person. With time, I grew more comfortable in my new role and felt like I was part of a team.

A training class I took in my new hire weeks, Strategies in Crisis Intervention and Prevention (SCIP), was essential in educating me on ways to support people and understanding unique behaviors associated with various diagnoses. The class taught me important coping skills, how to intervene safely and effectively, and how to implement these skills in various settings. Then came my first official day. Uncertain of what to expect, I jumped in with two feet, both excited and anxious.

My first feeling was sympathy. However, the more I have gotten to know the people I support, the more I realize how wrong I was about these wonderful people. They are not in need of my sympathy. I support happy, intelligent individuals full of life that wish to be treated like everyone else in the world. They seek independence and inclusion. The stereotypical notions surrounding people with disabilities that society has cast upon them have fizzled away from me. I have realized how much our thoughts and feelings are often very similar.

In my new role as a Direct Support Professional, I spend time focusing on assisting people in finding places to go and visiting the people they want to see. The people I support are so open to new ideas, and are ready for new experiences. It is unfortunate that COVID has limited their independence, but they are planning and looking forward to new and exciting adventures in the future.  For now, I will continue to do what I know brings people contentment. I will continue to help one woman style her hair, while helping another stick to her goals. I will continue to share budgeting tips with another woman, and help a person who wants to learn more about his nutrition. I will continue to remind another woman I support that she is managing her challenges so well. I will continue to find opportunities to see the Christmas lights in the winter or visit the Apple orchards during the fall. I will continue to support the individuality of each unique person.

A lot happens between these four walls. There are struggles, but there is guidance offered to people in their ability to cope. There are many laughs, and there are tears. There are raised voices, or perhaps, no voices at all. There are friendships, and there are jokes told around the kitchen table. There are compliments and sometimes offenses. There are many hands to pick up the pieces and support the frustrated.  There is sadness, but several shoulders to lean or cry on. I hear singing within these walls and, though the songs are not always the same, the tunes are always welcoming and familiar. There are obstacles, but there are also accomplishments. When I look into the eyes of these individuals, I see life. I see vibrant lives worth supporting.

Like being on a rollercoaster, you never know what to expect. There is always a new challenge around each corner. Amidst the ups and downs every day, I am eager and excited to accept the unknown.  At the end of the day, I am thankful and blessed to be on this ride. I am all the better for purchasing a ticket.

Interested in joining the AIM family? Learn more about working for AIM.