Heroes Work Here: Recognizing Direct Support Professionals

Author: Kathleen M. Cleaver - Contact: Contact Details
Published: 2022/07/01 - Updated: 2022/07/04
Peer-Reviewed: N/A
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Synopsis: Article explains the essential role of Direct Support Professionals (DSPs). DSPs are employed in private homes, community homes, and intermediate care facilities. Their job description is multifaceted. They assist their clients in personal care, help establish individualized goals, support their clients in achieving their goals, and monitor and report their progress to all personnel involved in the client's care.


Direct Support Professional (DSP)
A Direct Support Professional, or Direct Support Provider, works with individuals with physical and/or developmental disabilities. Their duties include creating behavior plans for these individuals, teaching them self-care skills, and helping them with specific essential daily tasks. DSPs perform some of the functions of clinicians, service coordinators, administrators, managers, maintenance, and clerical personnel. 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 Core Competencies. In the past, DSPs were trained as caregivers. But over the past few decades, the needs of those served changed. Therefore, the roles of DSPs began to change. Now, DSPs take on different aspects and functions than caregiving. It is no longer about doing things for people. It is about helping them learn how to do things for themselves.

Main Digest

Who are Direct Support Professionals (DSPs)?

Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) work directly with people with physical disabilities and/or intellectual disabilities with the aim of assisting the individual to become integrated into his/her community or the least restrictive environment. (Wikipedia.org)

DSPs are employed in private homes, community homes, and intermediate care facilities. Their job description is multifaceted. They assist their clients in personal care, help establish individualized goals, support their clients in achieving their goals, and monitor and report their progress to all personnel involved in the client's care.

DSPs accompany clients on social and work-related outings and provide transportation to important appointments. They provide respite for families. They are the lifeline for disabled individuals and their families. DSPs are dedicated to, supportive of, and patient with the clients and their families.

The average salary for a DSP is $13.00 per hour, a wage below that of other high school graduate entry jobs.


The pandemic opened our eyes to the importance of our essential workers. While we publicly thanked "visible" essential workers such as nurses, doctors, pharmacists, police, fire, and grocery store employees for their dedication, less visible workers like DSPs worked overtime to keep their clients safe, entertained, and happy. It was a difficult job. Because of underlying medical conditions, their clients were more vulnerable to the serious side effects of Covid. Many did not understand the sudden change to their routine.

DSPs covered shifts for fellow workers who were in quarantine by working double and triple shifts. While their families welcomed them home with open arms and the clients' families expressed their appreciation, there weren't any lines of cheering strangers as they entered and exited their places of employment. There were very few news stories celebrating their work's importance. Today, DSPs remain dedicated to the clients they serve.


DSPs support their clients, their families, and the staff involved with their clients' care. My sister and my daughter live in a beautiful intermediate care facility. I see the devotion the DSPs have for my sister and daughter. I see how they ensure the girls are happy, safe, and well cared for. I see how they work to assist the clients in their daily activities and in achieving the goals in their plans. During the pandemic, when clients' home visits were restricted, the DSPs assisted in setting up facetime chats and zoom calls to clients' families and friends.

When a disabled son or daughter still lives at home, the DSPs aid the family in many ways. DSPs help with daily care. They assist in community outings. They engage their client in activities that support the client's individual goals. DSPs provide respite so family members can work, complete errands, and care for their health needs. They are the angels who give the parents a break from the intensive care required for a disabled son or daughter.


While the requirements to become a DSP are fewer than in most other professions, the personal qualifications are many. Above all, a DSP must be patient. It takes time to care for a person with multiple disabilities. Daily tasks like dressing, bathing, and feeding can be arduous. It takes patience and attentiveness to learn the communication skills of someone multiply disabled. It requires patience to learn the abilities of each client to help them achieve the goals in their plans. It takes patience to be observant and responsive to the needs and feelings of the clients' families. Finally, along with patience, a DSP needs to be compassionate, kind-hearted, attentive, and understanding.


DSPs are essential workers. They care for our most vulnerable individuals and support their families. Their work is critical to their client's and their family's well-being. They deserve a living wage and recognition from the people they serve and all of us. Where would we be without them!

About Kathleen M. Cleaver

Kathleen M. Cleaver holds a Bachelor’s degree in elementary education and the education of children whose primary disability is a visual impairment (TVI). During her thirty year career as a teacher, Kathleen received the Penn-Del AER Elinor Long Award and the AER Membership Award for her service and contributions to the education of children with visual impairments. She also received the Elizabeth Nolan O’Donnell Achievement Award for years of dedicated service to St. Lucy Day School for Children with Visual Impairments.


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Cite This Page (APA): Kathleen M. Cleaver. (2022, July 1). Heroes Work Here: Recognizing Direct Support Professionals. Disabled World. Retrieved November 29, 2023 from www.disabled-world.com/disability/employment/jobs/dsp.php

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