Taylor Guisewhite watched Scott Young feed fish for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission on Tuesday morning.
Young, a 34-year old man with a social anxiety disorder, said he loves volunteering for the commission. It’s a place where he has volunteered for years, a safe haven where his anxiety is hardly noticeable.
Guisewhite is one of about 75 direct support professionals for The Arc of Centre County who lend a hand to about 75 individuals with intellectual disabilities across the county. The U.S. Senate designated this week, starting Sept. 7, as Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week.
“They work with individuals up to 20 hours a day,” said Becky Cunningham, The Arc’s CEO. “Some people need complete care. There are people in wheelchairs that need help being fed, being bathed. Then there are people who can do a lot for themselves. Each of them is a truly unique person.”
Craig Stettler, a fish culturist for the commission, said Young has gained fame over the years for his signature ribbing.
“His famous thing is saying ‘hey, what you doing?’ to us,” Stettler said. “He loves coming here, and we enjoy him. If a week goes by and we didn’t see him, we’ll start talking and wonder where he’s at.”
Guisewhite, a program generalist, said it’s not always as easy for Young outside of his home and the commission.
“Being in the community can be difficult for him and others we help,” Guisewhite said. “If we go to the same places for shopping, he’ll do OK, but when we go somewhere different, he gets anxious. Then other people interacting with him, and more so with older generations, also become anxious and back away a little, and they may feel just as anxious as him.”
Guisewhite said another challenging part of being a support professional is meeting the unique needs of different people.
“I’ve had every walk of life with this agency, and every individual is so unique in what they need from us,” Guisewhite said. “Learning that can be tough, especially if you have someone that communicates nonverbally.”
Kelly Bressler, a residential program worker for The Arc, agreed that working with different personalities can be difficult.
On Tuesday, Bressler took care of Robin, a 47-year-old man who has intermittent explosive disorder. She said Robin has to take medication for mood stabilization and that his behavior ranges from being extremely sweet to vulgar.
“He can get angry sometimes, and he calls people names,” Bressler said. “He can also be very kind and sweet to you. It’s not too difficult, but it’s a little challenging sometimes to cope with his behavior.”
Bressler said that although Robin has regular mood swings, he is independent.
“He especially loves to go shopping,” Bressler said. “He’ll go to Cabelas and buy fishing rods. He’ll plan meals to make here and he’ll shop for the meals he wants.”
The support professionals said they love their job despite the work’s inherit challenges.
“This job is extremely rewarding, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything,” Guisewhite said. “I love getting to know them and advocating for them to make sure the community understands them and treats them equally. It’s really awesome to see how people like Scott have grown. He was really shy when I got here, and now he’s a real jokester.”