With over 3.6 million Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) in the United States, they are the backbone of the provider industry. Through their dedication, creativity, advocacy and boundless energy, DSPs ensure people with disabilities have the necessary supports to live, work, and enjoy life more independently in the community.
What is a Direct Support Professional?
People who have developmental and intellectual disabilities sometimes rely on DSPs to help train them and increase their quality of life. Responsibilities of a DSP include:
- Improve and respect the lives of patients who have physical, mental and developmental disabilities, regardless of their culture, religion, age, or background.
- Administer prescribed medications to such patients.
- Help patients to develop appropriate social, behavioral, money management and housekeeping skills.
- Provide feedback regarding the strengths, skills and performance needs of the patients.
- Provide supervision and guidance during skill-building activities.
- Develop a rapport with the patients to nurture safe and supportive relationships.
- Document and report individual progress.
Being a DSP can be both rewarding and challenging, and individuals who pursue this career oftentimes have certain attributes that allow them to perform effectively and compassionately. DSPs must be tactful, patient, and understanding, and possess administrative skills to assist their patients. DSPs have the ability to work in a number of different settings, and frequently have the opportunity to share their own passions and talents with the people they support.
The National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals
The National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) is a national nonprofit dedicated to elevating the status of DSPs. They seek to do this by improving practice standards, promoting system reform, and advancing the knowledge, skills, and values of DSPs. NADSP believes:
- All direct support professionals benefit from access to well-constructed educational experiences and lifelong learning;
- Certifying highly qualified workers incentivizes continuing education, increased compensation, and access to career pathways for direct support professionals thereby improving retention;
- Values and ethical decision making can be learned and infused into daily practice; and
- Strengthening relationships and partnerships between direct support professionals, self-advocates, and other consumer groups and families improves the quality of support.
NADSP envisions a world with a highly qualified and professional direct support workforce that supports, empowers, and partners with people with disabilities to lead a life of their choosing. Each person that is being supported has unique gifts, preferences, and needs that will direct their individual path, and the DSP should follow that person’s lead to help them achieve a life of opportunity, well-being, freedom, and contribution.
National Advocacy Campaign
The American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR) is a national nonprofit that represents more than 1,600 private community providers of services to people with disabilities. Nationwide, more than one million individuals with disabilities rely on the services of DSPs to live, work and thrive in their communities, and the demand is growing rapidly.
ANCOR’s National Advocacy Campaign (NAC) advocates for the resources necessary to recruit, train and retain a healthy, sustainable direct support workforce. Through the NAC, ANCOR supports the professionalization of and provides recognition to the DSP workforce. Ultimately, they seek to enhance the lives of all people with disabilities who rely on long-term supports and services by obtaining the resources to recruit, train and retain a highly qualified and sustainable workforce.
DSPs have the opportunity to make an impact on the lives of the individuals that they support, while demonstrating the magic that’s possible when people with disabilities are valued for the richness of the contributions they make to our communities.