LIBERTY — Michael Schiller works as a direct support professional for Life Unlimited. His role is varied and he often casts a wide, flexible net determined to assist people who have intellectual or developmental disabilities reach their full potential. Schiller sees himself not so much as a caregiver, but a support giver.
Along with his work at Life Unlimited, Schiller also serves as chapel worship leader at Pleasant Valley Baptist Church.
“Throughout my life, I can say that the two biggest influences and activities have been around music and teaching,” he said.
What would surprise people most to learn about your job?
“Every day is different,” Schiller said. “I try to have a plan, but that plan can change at any moment. No two days are the same. When I take my clients into the community, I make sure they are safe. Some outings go as planned and others don’t. It’s also not an 8 to 5 job. You have to be able to think on the fly and respond to the needs of the individual. A DSP has to be on their A game at all time.”
What do you like best about your position or this field in particular?
“There is flexibility with my schedule,” he said. “Whether I was teaching middle school or parents, I always loved getting the lightbulb to go on. There are many of those moments in this job too. I watch them blossom, learning and understanding those smaller steps they take.”
What’s the most common question you get asked about what you do?
“The most common question I get is ‘what do you do again?’” he said. “There’s some explanation that is needed. I help people do the best they can. It may be shopping or other skills. It’s about meeting them within their circle of understanding.”
Would 10-year-old you be surprised that you are in this field or position?
“Looking at all this now, the direction of my professional life makes sense,” Schiller explained. “My brother is disabled and even as a child, I would work with my younger brother. Then I have been a middle school teacher and even a parent educator with Head Start. I have been a consultant ant trainer, working to engage families too. In hindsight, a lot of my past responsibilities and family role has led me here without realizing it.”
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
“I usually have six people as part of caseload,” Schiller said. “Right now, I am meeting with 14 people. It’s a wide scope that runs the gamut. I have people in their 20s to those in their late 50s. The challenges, their disabilities are all over the place. I also have some of their parents as well to help educate, especially in learning to give their kids space.”
What advice would you give someone who is starting a job similar to yours?
“This is a job where you need to have a people heart,” he said. “You are caring for people and working in close quarters. Sometimes they might ask questions that aren’t always comfortable, but you are there to help answer those awkward questions. Empathy is needed as well as an overall compassion for others.”