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Assistants provide support for disabled
The disAbility Resource Center is holding workshops to interest people in becoming personal-care assistants

 Germanna Community College nursing student Ann Marie Brown (left) works with Russell Cole, a teen with autism, on communication skills at Cole's Stafford County home. She's one of his four personal-care assistants.
ROBERT A. MARTIN/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 7/29/2012

BY CATHY JETT

Getting hired as a personal-care attendant for a teen with autism changed Ann Marie Brown's career path.

She was a sophomore majoring in history at the University of Mary Washington last year when she applied for a job helping 18-year-old Russell Cole practice such life skills as loading the dishwasher at his Stafford County home.

"Two months after working with him, I had a revelation," said Brown. "I've always been really interested in psychology, so finding a very practical way of using it was very exciting."

Last fall she switched from UMW to Germanna Community College, where she's enrolled in the nursing program. She plans to become a psychiatric nurse.

"Just observing behavior and trying to modify it is exciting to me," Brown said. "There are a lot of people who need these services."

She's not alone in recognizing the demand. The disAbility Resource Center, 409 Progress St. in Fredericksburg, has been holding workshops for people who want to learn more about becoming consumer-directed, or personal-care, assistants.

The next one will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. today at Smoot Library, 8562 Dahlgren Road in King George County. Registration is required, and can be made by contacting Kim Lett at 540/373-2559 or
Email: klett@cildrc.org.

"We want to enlarge the pool," said Lett, who is the disAbility Resource Center's program manager and deputy director. "It is difficult to find and keep personal attendants."

Personal-care assistants give individuals with mental, physical or other disabilities the support they need to live in their community. This can range from helping someone who has autism learn how to make his own lunch to helping feed an elderly disabled person.

The only requirements to become an assistant are to be at least 18 years old, have a Social Security number, pass a criminal background check and pass a Child Protective Services check if working with a child.

"Some people make it a career," Lett said. "Some are certified nursing assistants, but you don't have to have that certification."


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