National Direct Support Professionals Week is September 11 - 17, 2022. This is a week to recognize and show appreciation for the work of providers who are supporting individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities to maximize their independence.
Direct Support Professional (DSP) is an umbrella term that includes many different titles and functions, including 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.
DSPs 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, such as chauffeur, nurse, therapist, personal care aid, confidante and, in some cases, food security. They help people build relationships and expand their circle of natural support. They 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 health care provider. 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 they support. They must be “on” at all times, 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 they may not be aware of. DSPs must be skilled verbal and non-verbal communicators. They communicate with the individuals they support, family members, co-workers, physicians, and clinicians, both verbally and in writing. They also model and practice appropriate communication with the individuals that they support.
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 are parts of life, and how to learn from those feelings and experiences. DSPs are unsung heroes!
Below are a few tips to recognize and show your appreciation to the Direct Support Professionals in your life.
- Create a two-minute video from both you and your loved one being supported, thanking the DSPs in your life for their support. Share the difference that they are making.
- Post a message on the agency’s social media site recognizing the DSPs for all their efforts.
- Write a heartfelt card to each of the DSPs supporting your loved one – messages of appreciation from family members are powerful.
- Provide lunch or coffee for the team supporting your loved one.
- Provide a gift bag with some of their favorite things.
- Advocacy – get involved in advocating for legislation that would increase pay for DSPs.
- Contact your mayor or governor and request that they issue a proclamation declaring September 11-17th DSP week in your city or state. Encourage the mayor or governor to record a thank-you video that you can share with DSPs.
- Send pictures and messages of appreciation to PWSA | USA to share on social media during DSP week.