What Is a Direct Support Professional?

What Is a Direct Support Professional?

“Direct Support Professionals are at the heart of Keystone Human Services’ work,” says Greg Wellems, Vice President, Operations for Keystone Human Services. Direct Support Professionals or DSPs work directly with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, providing support to help them live full lives at home, work, school, and in the community. The work of a Direct Support Professional is complex. Each DSP takes a person-centered approach, finding creative, culturally valued ways to support each person to lead their desired life.

Although most people picture Direct Support Professionals working alongside people within a home, the impact of a DSP goes far beyond the walls of a house. The mission of Keystone Human Services across the globe focuses on inclusion for all people and building communities where everyone has the opportunity to thrive and fully participate in everything society has to offer. That places Direct Support Professionals at the forefront of building a more inclusive world.

DSPs connect with the people accepting services from KHS on a more personal level. “The people we support know that they have someone who sees them every day that they can depend on,” says Alyssa Batson, Community Support Professional. DSPs provide services and support for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities in their daily lives, including:

• Personal support in more individualized settings
• Coaching and support for employment
• Transportation
• Support with the activities of daily living
• Advocacy for rights and services
• Working with employers to customize job duties
• Providing emotional support

A Direct Support Professional is not a caregiver. While a DSP does provide both long-term and short-term care for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, DSPs also support people to become valued, contributing members of the community. They help people step into valued roles as they pursue their interests and dreams. “Direct Support Professionals are advocates and partners with the people we support,” says Charles Sweeder, President and CEO of Keystone Human Services. “Whether supporting people in the community, helping people learn new skills, assisting with a job or hobby, or just having fun, DSPs create opportunities for independence and community involvement. Each time I visit homes, I see the love, patience, and commitment of KHS staff who make a difference every day in the lives of the people we support.”

Just as importantly, Direct Support Professionals recognize and break down barriers to help people exercise their human rights. They are essential advocates and partners with people with disability to prevent exclusion and discrimination, and encourage and support people to make decisions and control their own lives. In this way, DSPs are part of a global advocacy movement, working alongside people with disability as they advocate for inclusion and respect.

For over fifty years, Keystone Human Services has worked toward deinstitutionalization, supporting people to live full lives in the community and access their rights, and Direct Support Professionals have played a pivotal role in that work. “The difference Direct Support Professionals and Community Support Professionals make is in the little things, like a smile, a laugh, or a game; and in the big things, like the accomplishment of a new skill, new job, or the feeling of increased independence,” says Julie Rizzo, President and CEO of Keystone Autism Services. “They pour their heart and soul into changing the lives of others. They’re the foundation of our organization, the key to our success, and so much more.”

Direct Support Professionals work closely with people of all ages who may have developmental, intellectual, or physical disabilities. Supporting people with sensitivity, compassion, and respect requires strong interpersonal skills, empathy, patience, and understanding. For many, the role of a DSP is an immensely fulfilling position, benefitting the community as a whole and every person within it.

Keystone Human Services is always looking for people with a drive to make a difference in people’s lives. With availability in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, and New Jersey, there are many opportunities to start a career with a big impact. Visit https://www.khs.org/careers/ today to apply.