Tammy Walker – Florida Direct Support Professional of the Year

Media Hub / April 3, 2024

For over 30 years, Tammy has achieved many positive outcomes for her clients by focusing on their abilities instead of their disabilities. She constantly advocates for her clients during program goal development by providing the clinical team with valuable insight into every individual to ensure active treatment is person-centered and designed to give each person the best opportunity to achieve their goals. Tammy always finds ways to integrate each resident’s preferences into their daily routine creatively and takes her time assisting residents while promoting their independence. There are many stories about how Tammy’s proactive advocacy and abilities-focused approach helped her clients meet their goals and led to successful, positive outcomes.

Tammy’s work with one client is a remarkable example of her impactful championing of person-centered support. The group home where Tammy works is home to clients who require specialized medical care and constant attentiveness due to individual medical complications. Tammy began working with this client in 2022, who moved to the group home after recently experiencing an ischemic stroke and losing almost all ability to use his left leg. Additionally, this client, who is diagnosed with Down syndrome, was held in the hospital for over 60 days because no other group home was willing to provide him with services because of his behavioral and medical challenges.

Tammy saw potential and ability in this client when others only saw a difficult challenge. She immediately established trust with him, determined what he wanted to achieve, and learned how certain obstacles were preventing his success and causing him to engage in maladaptive behaviors. Tammy recognized that meaningful participation in group games/activities was the client’s most desired goal and quickly determined that his poor manners were why he struggled to get along with others. She decided to apply a person-centered approach of creatively incorporating his other program goals, such as folding his clean laundry or choosing his outfit, while teaching him examples of how to interact appropriately in social settings. The results were incredible, and he achieved several positive outcomes. He began choosing his outfit with his daily group activity/outing in mind and came up with topics he wanted to discuss. At the same time, he practiced saying “please” and “thank you” and learned how to socially interact with others, which positively impacted his overall well-being. Today, this client’s social skills remain significantly improved, and he can enjoy group activities with his peers, who now enjoy his company. He currently attends an adult day program, travels to meet other group home clients for dinner nights or dance parties and continues to make progress toward achieving other desired goals.

Tammy is also known to go above and beyond to ensure that her clients, who have community-based goals, can achieve positive outcomes. She plans new and exciting outings, such as watching the newest Marvel movie, exploring a nature trail, visiting friends at other facilities, or taking day trips to see family when transportation is a challenge. Tammy always provides a support system for individuals who struggle to participate and fervently encourages other staff members to work together so that each person can achieve their goals and overcome any challenges. She immediately volunteers to be a chaperone on community outings and makes every event a big deal for everyone. Her clients love the excitement she brings while getting everyone ready for an event and telling stories to others about the great time they had that day.

Tammy is directly responsible for helping many of her clients create friendships and maintain family ties. Many of Tammy’s clients have family members who live several hours away. These circumstances are especially tough for individuals who struggle to understand why they don’t live with their families. It’s also difficult for family members who deeply miss their loved ones. Tammy understands how important this is to the people she serves and, for over three decades, has gone out of her way to support each client’s ability to maintain relationships.

Tammy sets the standard for supporting the people she serves by developing and maintaining relationships. Tammy learns every important element of her clients’ lives and understands the personal effect relationships have on overall well-being. For over 30 years, she has advocated for clients who lack access to their families, friends or loved ones by proactively taking them on in-person visits to ensure their ability to maintain close relationships. Many individuals separated by distance and circumstance have preserved the closeness of their relationship due to Tammy’s efforts. She is also responsible for facilitating new friendships between individuals with challenges that make forming friendships difficult. She is dedicated to representing her clients’ personal preferences and acts as a safeguard against any outside influence in their decision-making. Likewise, she never interjects her personal beliefs or opinions when helping her clients maintain or develop relationships.

Tammy has devoted her life to person-centered support by providing her clients the best opportunity to meet their personal goals. Her incredible capacity for devising an out-of-the-box approach to solve complicated challenges has resulted in many positive breakthroughs that improve the quality of life for the people she serves. She always attends social outings with her clients and is a reliable source of support so everyone can make new friends. Tammy also actively involves other staff members during these events so they can contribute towards making the experience beneficial for everyone.

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