New Mexico’s DSP of the Year, Iris Lucario, has been in the field for only two years, and she supports a man – a big man – who has infantile autism. His behaviors can be challenging, to include daily concussive head banging and physical aggression. Since he is largely non-verbal, Iris has had to learn his unspoken language. “Every day is something new. Some ideas work once and never again,” says Iris, “I have to think on my feet.”
Iris creates a visual schedule using photos to show him which staff is on duty and what changes to expect or where they are going together on a particular day. When he refuses to get dressed, she plays a dressing game with him. When dinner is late and he’s upset, she plays catch with him until his meal is ready. When a padded headboard was to be installed on his bed, Iris told him a “story” about the adventures of a new headboard that would keep him safe.
“I try to honor his needs, give him space, treat him like an adult and try to communicate and let him know he is not alone,” Iris says. Because of her supports and care, the man has made profound achievements: participating in drum class; having blood drawn at medical appointments; feeding ducks at a pond; visiting the zoo; petting a stranger’s dog; eating at a public, buffet style restaurant despite food-seeking behaviors; and inter people in the community.
Antoinette Wright, who nominated Iris for her DSP of the Year honor, says “Iris honors what he likes and does not like and empowers him to live a happy, healthy and safe life. Most strikingly, Iris spreads this compassion to her team and to his family.”