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Ciara LaVelle’s Story – Pembroke Pines, Florida

Pembroke Pine, Florida – My son Caidan just turned 6, and with each passing birthday, I’m so inspired and proud of how far he’s come. Caidan is autistic and mostly nonspeaking. He’s also smart and inventive, and has found plenty of ways to get his point across when he feels strongly about something, whether it’s how excited he is to go to the beach or how much he dislikes having his hair cut. In his short six years on this planet, he’s taught me never to underestimate him and never to assume what he can and can’t do.

Still, as the mother of a child on a unique developmental path, I know Caidan’s future is uncertain. It’s impossible to know what skills our son Caidan will develop as he reaches adulthood, and how much support he will need throughout his life. In order for him to live a full, independent life, there’s a good chance he will need the help of direct support professionals in some capacity.

That’s why current trends in the DSP field, with a growing shortage of services due to professionals leaving their careers to pursue higher-paying jobs, are extremely troubling to me. The fact that DSPs can make as little as $10 per hour is absurd – this is life-changing work! Why are we rewarding it with the bare minimum? From basic survival skills like eating and bathing, to transportation, support at work and beyond, DSPs are essential to helping people with disabilities thrive within their communities. That’s something that all people deserve, including people like my son Caidan.

I can’t predict my son’s future. But I do know that DSPs are essential right now for thousands of Floridians, and that they deserve to be paid fairly for the important work they do. Kids like Caidan need us to act now to bring more people back to the DSP field, so that they can easily access the support they need when it’s their time.

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