How Do Direct Support Professionals Make a Difference?

“[Direct Support Professionals] look at people’s possibility, not their disability,” says Bill Krebs, Advocacy Coordinator for Keystone Human Services (KHS). A Direct Support Professional (DSP) has a vital, complex role that focuses on partnering with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and supporting them to live full lives in the community and at home, work, school, or anywhere else.

Keystone Human Services provides individualized, person-centered intellectual disability services and autism services in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Although a DSP often works in one locale, providing support for one person in the community, their work is really part of a global movement of deinstitutionalization and inclusion, supporting people to access their rights and live their desired lives.

“In the past, Direct Support Professionals were viewed as primarily a caregiver, and Keystone Human Services has been at the forefront of reshaping that image. A Direct Support Professional is a coach, a teacher, a role model, an advocate for inclusion, and community bridge builder,” says Leah Klish, Director, Operations Education for KHS.

Rather than serving as caregivers, DSPs are partners with people with disabilities, recognizing that each person is the expert in their own life. Unlike home health aides or personal care aides, which are positions that focus on activities related to health and daily living activities, Direct Support Professionals act as a bridge to the community. Although they also help with daily living, DSPs support people with disability to build relationships and gain valued roles, actively participating in all the community has to offer. DSPs serve as advocates alongside the people they support, helping to tear down barriers so people with disability can fully access their rights and be listened to, respected, and included.

The job of a DSP is constantly varied and requires DSPs to bring their authentic selves to their work. Their creativity, connections, and personal approach all contribute toward building a culture of inclusion within the community and the world at large. As change agents and advocates alongside people with disability, they are working to break through the stereotypes of what it means to have a disability. People with disability have voices, and those voices matter.

Keystone Human Services has opportunities for anyone looking to take the next step in their career to become a Direct Support Professional. You’ll make an impact on individual people, communities, and the world. We have openings in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, and New Jersey. Visit us at to learn more.