Party of Four: Taking care of individuals with intellectual disabilities during COVID-19


HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Doctors and nurses’ scrubs are looking more like superhero capes these days, but they’re not the only ones providing care.

Direct support professionals is what they’re called, and their calling is helping people with intellectual disabilities live a happy, independent life.

The workforce calls them essential, but their patients calls them family.

“We know whenever we accept this kind of work that we don’t have an option of staying home,” said Dave Tyson, program supervisor at Keystone Human Services.

It’s impossible because Tyson is in charge of a household of three busy bees who don’t tire easily.

There’s Tony Alleman, who owns his own canteen business, ‘Tony’s Snack Attack,’ Russell Koons who sees a lady friend in Middletown bi-weekly: “I’m gonna pick this phone up and face time her, and see her pretty face,” he said.

Finally, there’s Todd Teter, who knows what he likes.

“My role became a little more important in keeping those connections alive,” Tyson said

Since the outbreak, the trio has painted, taken virtual tours and planted flowers, but their routine has been uprooted.

Tyson said he’s been soothing fears and trying to explain why life can’t go back to normal just yet.

“Russell asked me, ‘Dave, are we going to make it through this?'” Tyson said.

It was a tough question, but Tyson said the answer is simple.

“We made it through blizzards. We made it through floods. We made it through a fire. Are we going to make it through this,” Tyson said, “We [now] have a motto, ‘we are going to get through this.'”

He’s essential. They’re survivors. This too shall pass.

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