Developmental service workers (also known as social service assistants)
support people with developmental disabilities. These workers are on the front
lines, directly helping clients lead better lives. They teach clients job
or life skills, transport clients or help clients balance their budgets.
"My main focus is to help the developmentally disabled deal better with
community and occupations," says Courtney Wertz. She's a social service assistant
in Fort Wayne, Indiana. "I work with one 24-year-old female for an entire
shift on a full-time basis. When I'm needed, I can be flexible and work with
Developmental service workers may work for group homes, sheltered workshops
and day programs. Depending on where they work, they may be responsible for
one or more clients.
"I'm responsible for training and assisting 51 developmentally disabled
workers," says Scott Martin. He's a developmental assistant for a sheltered
workshop. "On certain days, it can be challenging to keep up with all of them!"
Many developmental service workers work evenings and weekends. "I usually
work evenings from 3 p.m. to 12 a.m., and I work all weekends," says Wertz.
Wheelchair lifts and specialized production tools may be used. "I use a
mechanical lift to lift a person from her wheelchair into the bathtub," says
social service worker Penneye Robinson.
Developmental service workers are prime candidates for burnout. At times,
developmentally disabled clients may spit at, hit or kick well-meaning workers.
A crisis may surface at any moment, and workers must be able to "switch gears"
quickly and professionally intervene.
"Hidden hazards include clients running over your feet with wheelchairs,
clients abusing your patience, high stress and burnout," says Robinson.