Direct support professional (DSP) is an umbrella term that includes many different titles and functions; for example: direct care, direct support worker/specialist/assistant/counselor, habilitation specialist, residential counselor, activities of daily living specialist, relief staff, apartment worker, developmental disabilities specialist, job coach, employment specialist, community bridge-builder, paid friend/neighbor, family care provider, family support services aide, community companion, personal assistant, etc. Regardless of what title they have, they are the backbone of paid supports for individuals diagnosed with intellectual/developmental disabilities.
Direct Support Professionals (DSP) play an important role in encouraging and maintaining the health and wellness of individuals living with PWS, while fostering their personal growth, independence and development of life skills. They wear many hats in their role; chauffeur, nurse, therapist, personal care aid, and friend. They help people build relationships and expand their circle of friends.
Direct support professionals provide care and assistance to individuals and often get to know them as well as family members do. They know when they are excited about something, are feeling confident, or when they are having a difficult day and are feeling down. Direct support professionals are often the first to recognize when someone is not well, and further assessments are necessary by a physician. They then help to share the assessment results in a way that is meaningful and understandable to the individual.
Direct support professionals are responsible for the safety, dignity and health of the individuals that they support. They must be “on” all the time and have an obligation to discover the aspects of the whole individual that aren’t documented in their “chart”. They have an obligation to help individuals discover aspects of themselves that they may not be aware of.
Direct support professionals must be skilled verbal and non-verbal communicators. They communicate with the individuals that they support, family members, co-workers, physicians, and clinicians both verbally and in writing. They model and practice appropriate communication with the individuals that they support. They can understand what a person is saying, when no one else can.
Direct support professionals empower individuals to make informed decisions and to communicate them respectfully. They encourage individuals to branch out of their comfort zones and to grow while providing support and a safety net. They teach individuals that failure, frustration and disappointment is part of life and how to learn from it.
Direct support professionals are unsung heroes. PWSA (USA) thanks and celebrates all the direct support professionals who are making a difference in the lives of individuals with PWS. Happy Direct Support Professional Week.