Doing What Comes Naturally

By Karli Steen, WorkStory Ambassador

Developmental Service Worker Amber Whayman was introduced to helping disabled children through an elementary school co-op program.  With the original goal of being a teacher, all it took was one question to change her mind: "An EA in the class asked me if I wanted to learn about autism. I of course said yes, and if it wasn't for her asking me, I don't know what I would be doing now. I fell in love with working with the students as an EA and learning about disabilities and how to support people".

However, it wasn't just a question that inspired Amber's path: "I also believe that my dad had an influence on my career. When I was 8 he was in a car accident that left him with an acquired brain injury. I watched supports come into the house to help him recover, and I took on the role of helping him from a very young age. Helping people is just my nature! It's what I have always done."

Amber followed her natural instincts by going into Fanshawe College's DSW program. When asked what she found most useful about the program, Amber says that she took a little bit of knowledge from every course, but the most useful were the stories of first-hand experiences shared by the professors, because they  provided insight on what to do and what not to do in important situations.

Amber recalls that in school she was shy and reserved. Now that she is working with Forward House, and has gained more experience, being shy is a thing of the past.  When asked what a typical day on the job would look like, Amber had this to say: "Well it depends on the day. I work in  supported living houses where there are at max two people living in each location. I assist people with the activities of daily living such as showering, dressing, meal prep, feeding, and medications. Basically anything you do for yourself in the day, I assist people with those things.We go to medical appointments, grocery shopping, and fun stuff like hockey games, the fair, and festivals."

Amber is unsure of where the road will take her, but says she is happy where she is now. She shared the best part of her job: "Just being able to do what I love every day and seeing the people I support being happy. Knowing that by helping the people I support complete the daily activities that most people take for granted every day is so rewarding."

Finally, these words of advice were shared for those interested in the field: "VOLUNTEER. Get a volunteer position working with people who have disabilities. I volunteered at a day program in my hometown before I started at Fanshawe. I also think it is very important to keep an open mind. With this career there are many places you can work. For example, a group home, the school board, or a day program; and you may be surprised where you like and don't like to work."