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DSP Week: Virtually Together with ZayKeya Brenic

Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week: A Series

Meet the multi-faceted DSPs that make up Citizens Options Unlimited

As a full-time Pre-K teacher and mother to a son with Autism, ZayKeya Branic, Respite DSP for Virtual Connections, has a deep understanding of the world of intellectual and developmental disabilities.

DSP ZayKeya Branic joins Virtual Cconnections on ZoomZayKeya heard about the position through a colleague at school who said that with her education background and personal experience, she’d be a perfect fit.

“I used to teach lessons virtually with my Pre-K class during Covid, so I went into this knowing what works and how to maintain a group’s attention online,” she said.

Each Saturday and Sunday since early 2022, ZayKeya has overseen Virtual Connections which runs from 1pm to 8pm. Virtual Connections is one of Citizen’s many respite opportunities, which provide an enriching experience for its members to learn, grow, sing, dance, and get to know each other. The program runs daily through a Zoom call.

“In the one year I’ve been here, I can see the growth,” she said. “I’ve gone from doing a lot of prompting with them and hosting the virtual concerts, to seeing the group take charge.”

The group was hesitant to share during virtual and some were even a little shy, but that quickly changed as everyone got more engaged and participated. She noted that everyone in Virtual Connection’s overall confidence and conversational skills increased.

The program originated as a response to quarantine restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic. As the world opened back up, any of the members of Virtual Connections have even sought out relationships with each other outside of Zoom.

“Now they have friends for life,” she said. “They’re very supportive of each other.”

Being a part of this opportunity has also helped ZayKeya to learn more about her own situation as the mother of someone with Autism, as her son recently graduated from high school and will begin looking for a trade job.

“I really enjoy working with them and I know they do too,” she said. “It’s very meaningful work to me and I look forward to seeing them every weekend.”



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