Jessi Walton – Alaska Direct Support Professional of the Year

Jessi has been providing support and care for a non-verbal, Autistic client for eight years who resides in a group home with other developmentally disabled individuals. Jessi recognized her client was communicating using a unique form of sign language, which she’d created herself. Jessi stayed attuned to her client and learned the meaning of the hand cues. She has shared this information with other team members and residents in the house so they can understand what her client is communicating. This has allowed the individual to express her needs more effectively with those around her and has provided a greater sense of independence.

Jessi collaborates with the client’s care team – consisting of family members, a Care Coordinator, three provider agencies, staff from the group home, and brand administration – and communicates effectively to advocate for her client’s quality of life while supporting specific goals and objectives. Jessi’s leadership on this team has directly shaped the care her client receives. She involves her client in activities so she can have a full and exciting life. Jessi keeps inclusion in the community and developing life skills at the forefront when the team creates goals for her client.

Jessi supported her client by taking her to weekly swimming and Taekwondo classes in a community setting with other individuals, prior to the pandemic. Participation in weekly structured community activities has improved the client’s overall quality of life and has allowed her to socialize and explore meaningful friendships in the community.