At 64, Michael Bradley found himself at a crossroads. The program where he was teaching had closed, and he had a choice: Retire, or find a new career. He chose the latter – and he found his new calling at Bancroft.
Three years later, Bradley is a clinical specialist providing direct support to children and youth at the Lindens Center for Autism on the Bancroft Raymond & Joanne Welsh Campus in Mt. Laurel, NJ.
The job is a natural fit for Bradley, a longtime teacher, pastor and Army veteran who says he’s always been drawn to positions where he could work with and train others.
“I’ve always had a desire to help others learn and to give back to them; I’ve always found joy in seeing those I’ve taught improve, grow and ultimately move onto the next step in their lives,” he says. “There are days when it’s hard work, but when you see a child you’ve worked with make a little bit of progress, you just think ‘wow.’”
Bradley is beloved by the children he works with and revered by his colleagues for his patience, his passion, and the unmistakable sincerity he brings to his work.
“I love interacting with the children, and I feel very protective of them and they know it. They pick up on that genuine concern and can tell when you really care – and that’s what they want, to know you care about them,” he said.
It takes consistency, as well.
“Change can be very difficult, so it’s important that the children know we’re here, they get to know us and see us every day. That makes a big difference: They trust you won’t cycle out of their lives, but instead will be a source of stability for them.”
His advice for others looking to begin a career as a direct support professional? “So often, people underestimate the individuals we serve – but just because they may not communicate as well as you or I do, that doesn’t mean they don’t understand. They know exactly what you’re saying and what you’re doing,” he says. “You have to treat every child with dignity and help build them up; their success is your success. When you see a child flourish because someone simply took the time and patience to work with them, it’s amazing.”