Across India, small, community-based supportive services for people with developmental disability are rising out the imaginations of families and activists. These days, such sorts of services are often fueled by the desire to create human-scale alternatives to large institutional settings.

With this, comes a need to create a respected profession for the paid staff who work directly with people. Often, we focus on what people can and should GIVE to those they support. A number of support staff work who closely by the side of people with significant disability recently shared some insights into how the work they do has benefitted THEM – how they have grown and shifted as a result of standing by, with, and for people with disabilities.

Recent conversations with a number of support staff at Vidya Sagar in Chennai, Action for Autism in Delhi, Community Lives in Uttarakhand, and KPAMRC in Bengaluru yielded some potent reflections on what has been gained from the role.

These can be considered small beauties – seldom-considered gifts that people with disability bring to those who serve them and walk with them.

Insight from Support Staff

  • “Earlier I used to think that the women are sick, and the behavior would decrease with medicine therapy, but now I realize that when they live like ordinary people, then change can come and has come.”
  • “…has helped me to be more creative.”
  • “I realized that sometimes my body language or tone of voice was not correct, so I am working on changing that.”
  • “I have learned tolerance now.”
  • ‘I have met some of my best friends through this work.”
  • “I know my community better.”
  • “My spirituality has deepened.”
  • “I have more fun and enjoyment.”
  • “Our thinking regarding the women has changed.”
  • “I’ve learned how to do new things.”
  • “I’ve learned how to talk to others respectfully.”
  • “I know now that all work can be done even if it takes a little more time.”
  • “I have learned to control myself. Earlier I used to get truly angry.”
  • “Earlier I had not heard the word ‘disabled.’ Now I have tried to change myself, changed my thoughts. I have learned to be humble and have love for the women.”
  • “I have learned to fulfill a support staff role.”