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Developmental Service Worker

What They Do

Social and Human Service Assistants Career Video

Insider Info

Developmental service workers (also known as social service assistants) support people with developmental disabilities. These workers are on the front lines, directly helping clients lead better lives. They teach clients job or life skills, transport clients or help clients balance their budgets.

"My main focus is to help the developmentally disabled deal better with community and occupations," says Courtney Wertz. She's a social service assistant in Fort Wayne, Indiana. "I work with one 24-year-old female for an entire shift on a full-time basis. When I'm needed, I can be flexible and work with other people."

Developmental service workers may work for group homes, sheltered workshops and day programs. Depending on where they work, they may be responsible for one or more clients.

"I'm responsible for training and assisting 51 developmentally disabled workers," says Scott Martin. He's a developmental assistant for a sheltered workshop. "On certain days, it can be challenging to keep up with all of them!"

Many developmental service workers work evenings and weekends. "I usually work evenings from 3 p.m. to 12 a.m., and I work all weekends," says Wertz.

Wheelchair lifts and specialized production tools may be used. "I use a mechanical lift to lift a person from her wheelchair into the bathtub," says social service worker Penneye Robinson.

Developmental service workers are prime candidates for burnout. At times, developmentally disabled clients may spit at, hit or kick well-meaning workers. A crisis may surface at any moment, and workers must be able to "switch gears" quickly and professionally intervene.

"Hidden hazards include clients running over your feet with wheelchairs, clients abusing your patience, high stress and burnout," says Robinson.

At a Glance

Provide support and assistance to people with mental disabilities

  • Work at a group home, workshop or day program
  • Volunteer experience can help you land a job in this field
  • Evening and weekend work is common