Oh, the Places You’ll Go! – Dr. Seuss

Going from theory to practice always has challenges and this is especially true of developing healthy exercise habits.  To expect that every Direct Service Professional has been exposed to every park, entertainment venue, swimming complex, workout facility and fair in your area is unrealistic.  Direct Service Professionals all have differing knowledge of the area and what it has to offer.  Ability Matters found that Direct Service Professionals were able to connect to individualized exercise activities each day if they knew what was available.  This allowed them to consult with the person they serve and make decisions based on their needs and interests.  Therefore, every staff person who works at Ability Matters gets a daily text message with 2-3 community-based activities available in the area on that particular day.  These text messages include addresses, links to more information and pertinent details.  It is much more efficient to have an Activities Coordinator who texts daily happenings than to expect each Direct Service Professional to find them on their own.  These daily texts are similar to a cruise line’s information tv channel that informs you of current happenings on the ship or in port, how to access those activities and any needed details.  This channel of communication ensures that all passengers have the opportunity to take advantage of all available activities even though they know that different passengers have different vacation interests, and do not expect everyone to attend every event. 

Having an Activities Coordinator also allows for a central depository to maintain this “institutional knowledge”.  Successful events can be kept on file for the next year.  In central Ohio, our Activities Coordinator often checks https://www.columbusonthecheap.com/ and https://www.experiencecolumbus.com/ as well as following the parks department calendars and happenings at local zoos and community centers.  When a Direct Service Professional runs across an activity or event they think might be useful or if they have feedback about an event or activity they have attended, they know the Activities Coordinator can use that information and distribute it to everyone.  When staffing this position, it is important that the staff person maintain their direct care position as well.  One of the keys to success that Ability Matters discovered quickly was the importance of administrative staff spending part of their time in the office and part of their time in the field working with the individuals we serve.  Financially this allows them to continue to bring income into the company, but more importantly it keeps them in touch with the staff working in the field and the individuals that we serve.  This was particularly important during the pandemic when society changed quickly and unexpectedly.  Despite the changing landscape, we were able to provide staff with virtual exercise options, updates to ever changing rules of outside venues that remained open and teaching tools for wearing masks to meet the immediate challenge.  Without a skilled Activities Coordinator, we would not have been able to rise to the occasion and continue our services.