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This week is Direct Support Professionals week.  I’m sure many of you reading this have not heard of a Direct Support Professional and may be wondering what exactly does a DSP does? 

By definition, Direct Support Professionals are individuals who work directly with people who have physical and/or intellectual disabilities with the purpose of assisting the individual to become integrated into his/her community within the least restrictive environment. That’s a technically correct definition, but doesn’t get to the heart of what a DSP does.

A DSP is a great communicator. They must adapt to communicate messages to persons with intellectual disabilities or brain injuries who may not be able to express themselves in a way that is easy to understand. DSPs are patient, calm and communicate in a way that maintains the dignity of the person.

A DSP is an ambassador. In many instances, he or she must represent and advocate for the individual’s needs to multiple groups such as physician offices, managed Medicaid companies, case managers, other healthcare providers, and co-workers. They must also interact with families or guardians on a regular basis.

A DSP is a caregiver. They assist with bathing, toileting, dressing, or other personal care needs. DSPs may also provide support for shopping, money management, cleaning, cooking or administering medications.

A DSP is a protector. They protect individuals with disabilities from health or physical hazards.  

A DSP is a teacher. DSPs help persons served develop and maintain life skills. They teach skills such as behavior management, responsibility, daily living activities, self-advocacy skills and language and communication development.

A DSP is an advocate. DSPs work to ensure individuals with disabilities receive the same treatment and access anyone else would receive. They help the client work towards community integration and acceptance.

Skyline Center DSPs are heroes. During the current pandemic they have remained faithfully committed to our clients and worked diligently to protect them from the COVID-19 virus. After the derecho that stormed through our area, our DSPs continued their work with our persons served in incredibly difficult circumstances. There were no complaints about working without power or access to the tools normally used to make their job easier.

DSPs have a rewarding career.  They have the opportunity to work with individuals with disabilities and experience the warmth, kindness, sense of humor, dedication and unique personality each one of them has to offer.  They are able to witness the growth and development of the people for which they provide care. DSPs have the ability to positively impact the lives of the individuals they care for.

So, the next time you hear someone say they are a Direct Support Professional, or DSP, please take a minute and thank them for the work they do. Their work is often overlooked but the work they do is incredible and invaluable.

Shane Buer,

Skyline Center executive director