What is a Direct Support Professional?

November 24, 2019

What is a Direct Support Professional?

Direct Support Professional. A seemingly vague job title.

If you have never heard this phrase before it may not spark clear images of what this role entails.

In my opinion this title is vague by necessity. A Direct Support Professional is “a person who assists an individual with a disability to lead a self-directed life and contribute to the community, assists with activities of daily living if needed, and encourages attitudes and behaviors that enhance community inclusion.”

For those with Intellectual and developmental disabilities a Direct Support Professional or DSP is an omnipresent all-encompassing being. They wear many hats to say the least.

  • Direct Support Professional is a chef. Preparing meals that meet the dietary needs and personal preferences of those that they support.
  • They are fitness instructors. Always finding new ways to make exercise fun. They may fill a role similar to a nurse, passing medication or assisting during a seizure.
  • They are teachers, always instructing, redirecting and inspiring.
  • They are also event planners, chauffeurs, life coaches and the list goes on.
  • A DSP is also a companion.

In our day to day life, we have a social circle that is broken into various layers. In my inner circle are my best friends, my family and maybe a significant other. My next level consist of coworkers, friends that I am not as close with or family that I do not see as often. The outer layer would be community connections. This could be a barista who knows my coffee order or someone I bump into at the gym from time to time.

Now put yourself in the shoes of someone with an Intellectual and developmental disability who lives within the services of an agency. You are now completely reliant on a direct support professional to nurture this social circle. Or depending on your personal life or preferences the Direct Support Professionals who work with you may be a very large part of your social circle.

The Direct Support Professionals that I have the pleasure of working with are not the voice for our clients but a microphone. It is a position that they have chosen because of their passion and love for the field. The work is not always easy and the title may be confusing, but it is one of the most rewarding jobs a person could take.

Abby Frantz
Community Access Program Manager
Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities Services

If you have a similar passion to help others, consider a career as a DSP. JF&CS is now hiring for multiple positions.