By: Courtney Brown
What is a Direct Support Professional (DSP)?
A Direct Support Professional or DSP, assists individuals who live with intellectual disabilities or autism. DSPs teach life skills and address behaviors to help individuals reach their full potential. In previous years, DSPs took on the role of caregiver for those with intellectual disabilities and autism, instead of teaching them and assisting them to care for and do things themselves. An article by the Regional Centers for Workforce Transformation discusses the differences between a DSP and a caregiver while outlining the distinction of the DSP. It states, “DSPs are distinct in that they are trained in a variety of methods. They are held to a high, nationally validated Code of Ethics and set of Core Competencies.” A DSP can assist a client with doing their laundry through verbal cues and modeling instead of doing it for them like a caregiver would. Clients can achieve a wide range of goals with the help of a DSP, when learning to care for themselves such as grocery shopping, money management, or caring for their homes. In an individual's life, a DSP wears many
hats, which is why matchmaking is so important. DSPs and clients have their own personalities, as well as their own scheduling availability. A quality match between a DSP and a client is crucial to assisting a client to reach their full potential both at home and in the community.
More than a schedule
DSPs’ availability and work schedules often solely determine how and when individuals receive staffing. There are times when the personalities between staff and client happen to be a perfect
match and other times when the match does not work as expected. Meet and greets between the client and DSP help to ensure that the pair make a good match. Both parties can get to know each other and if the personalities mesh well, a healthy working relationship can form.
Why is it so important for DSPs and clients to match well?
Both DSP and client should enjoy the time they spend together. DSPs and clients tend to spend a lot of time together, in some cases even more so than their own family members. Each client has their own unique lifestyle and schedule. While some clients may live at home with family members, others live independently on their own and really want to enjoy the time they spend with their DSP.
A quality match between a DSP and their client can truly change the long-term impact and relationship. Building and maintaining a positive working relationship is essential and can have a positive impact on both the client and the DSP.
Continuity, Security and Quality of Life
Individuals with intellectual disabilities or autism often depend on the support of an organization's DSP staff. Unfortunately, high turnover rates are common in these organizations. This makes it difficult for individuals to maintain not only their security and continuity, but also their quality of life. Individuals who have increased behavioral issues, for example, will experience increased turnover compared to those who don't. Additionally, individuals in residential services tend to experience more DSP turnover as opposed to those who are living independently or with family. Choosing the right DSP for a client can reduce turnover, ensure continuity, security, and quality of life (The Impact of Continuity…)
Promoting a Healthy Lifestyle
When matching clients and staff it’s important to remember the numerous goals in place. Helping a client to achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle is one of them. Often, people with moderate to profound intellectual disabilities do not lead healthy lifestyles in regards to physical activity and healthy eating habits. DSPs can help support individuals with intellectual disabilities or autism to achieve any goals related to a healthy lifestyle, such as eating right and exercising regularly. To help a client maintain a healthy and active lifestyle, we match them with a DSP who understands the importance of a healthy diet and active lifestyle. A study conducted in January, 2022 by BMC Health Services Research looks at the lack of theory-based interventions for DSPs to support a healthy lifestyle for those with moderate to profound intellectual disabilities. The study evaluated the preparation, preliminary outcomes, and implementation of theory based training and educational systems for DSPs to effectively support these individuals with moderate to profound intellectual disabilities. The study concluded that implementation of specialized training for DSPs in promoting a healthy and active lifestyle for moderate to profound intellectual disability is a tool that can be used to support DSP’s when helping their client achieve the goal of a healthy and active lifestyle. More information about this study can be found here.
Social Inclusion and the Direct Support Professional
Social inclusion is one of the most important aspects of an individual's life. An individual's dignity is important, as are opportunities and security for living a fulfilling life. The DSP plays an important role in helping the individual achieve inclusion in society. Facilitation of inclusion depends on the DSPs thorough understanding of what it means to the individual to be included. Three Rivers Community Care educates and trains all of our staff on helping a client thrive when it comes to inclusion, opportunities, and relationships within their communities. To
support our clients in this way, we use the recommendations and training provided by the Office of Developmental Programs for each of our DSPs. This training ensures the DSP understands how to promote inclusivity for their clients.
A study conducted in July of 2015 by the National Library of Medicine looks at the efforts of DSPs to facilitate inclusion. The study promoted research on psychological processes that influence how DSPs engage and support the efforts of inclusion in society for their clients. The study concluded that the DSP’s efforts to promote and facilitate inclusion was heavily influenced by experience, attitude towards inclusion, and their role identity when it comes to supporting their individual inclusion. You can read more about the specific background, methods and results of this study here at the National Library of Medicine website.
Three Rivers Community Care: Our Commitment
At Three Rivers Community Care, we are committed to providing the highest quality of care to the individuals and families we serve. We match Direct Support Professionals with individuals based on similar interests, preferences, and not just scheduling availability. For many years to come, we hope to continue providing the best support to our individuals and their families.