What is a Direct Support Professional? There are many different jobs within the healthcare and human services field. Most of these jobs are essential due to the services and care they provide for people.  One of these jobs is a Direct Support Professional (DSP).

A Direct Support Professional is a healthcare and human services worker that supports individuals with disabilities. Many times, these individuals have intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Intellectual and developmental disabilities involve lifelong challenges that can be simply intellectual or incorporate physical challenges as well. Some of the challenges caused by these disabilities involve the inability to perform activities of daily living (ADLs). That’s where a Direct Support Professional comes in.

DSPs act as a caregiver and help individuals with IDD perform certain activities of daily living.  However, unlike a caregiver, DSPs help individuals with IDD to learn how to do these tasks themselves wherever possible. In this way, individuals with IDD can become more independent. Because of this focus on teaching instead of just doing, DSPs are becoming increasingly in demand, and there are currently over 77,000 DSPs in the United States. That number is expected to rise since the work that a DSP provides is so important. Let’s look at some of the specific responsibilities of a DSP.

What Are the Responsibilities of a Direct Support Professional?

The duties of a Direct Support Professional can be wide-ranging since there are many different client needs. The work DSPs perform will depend on the specific person they are assisting and that individual’s needs. However, here are some of the main responsibilities a DSP may take on:

  • Helping clients with daily tasks, including cooking, shopping, attending appointments, housekeeping, and medication management
  • Assisting clients with things like dressing, bathing, personal hygiene, moving around, getting in and out of bed, and more
  • Teaching and encouraging individuals how to perform certain tasks independently
  • Keeping track of a client’s personal information, including things like casework notes, daily activities, medication logs, financial documents, and behavioral assessments
  • Teaching important life skills, like how to interact with others, ask for help, manage finances and more
  • Transporting clients to appointments or other activities outside the home
  • Assisting in keeping a safe living space
  • Managing a client’s money, paying their bills, etc.

As mentioned earlier, these are some of the most common job duties for a DSP, but there are many others that could be required depending on the specific situation. Now that we know more about the work that’s involved with being a DSP, let’s look at some of the skills that are necessary to perform those duties. So, what are some of the characteristics of a good DSP?

The Characteristics of a Direct Support Professional

While anyone can become a DSP, there are a few characteristics of a direct support professional that will ensure success  in the role. These characteristics and skills include:

  • Patience and Composure – DSPs can face many challenging situations, so it’s important to be able to remain patient and composed under stressful circumstances. Working with people with IDD and trying to teach them how to perform tasks on their own won’t always be easy. It will take a lot of time and repetition, so remaining patient is crucial. There may also be times when issues arise with an individual, and remaining composed during those times will help DSPs respond in the proper way and keep a situation from escalating.
  • Communication – DSPs also must have good communication skills since they have to understand what the individual needs, communicate with family members and guardians, share information with their own employer, and even talk with other medical professionals that care for the person. Relaying essential information to all of these different groups may be a major part of a DSP role.
  • Dependability – One of the most important characteristics of a DSP is dependability. Since individuals with IDD are relying on a DSP’s assistance and care, it is paramount that they show up when and where they are needed.
  • Interpersonal Skills – Since the role of a DSP is to support and care for another person’s needs, it’s important that they have interpersonal skills that will help them provide that care. This includes being compassionate, understanding, kind, and able to connect with others.
  • Observation – Observation skills are another important part of being a DSP. This is because they will need to observe individuals and keep track of their needs, their daily activities, their behavior, and more. Being attentive and staying focused will ensure that DSPs know everything about a person’s situation and can therefore provide the best care. Sometimes an individual with IDD cannot communicate if they are sick or in pain. Observing and reporting behavior changes is an important part of a DSPs’ responsibilities.
  • Advocacy – Finally, an essential characteristic of a good DSP is that they are an advocate for the individuals they support. They want to see them succeed, make sure that all of their needs are met, and educate others about their experience.

At New Concepts for Living (NCFL), our mission is to serve individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and it is the fundamental force that makes us the premier community for adults with IDD in New Jersey. We are committed to caring for and nurturing adults challenged with special needs so they can attain their highest level of wellness, independence, and achievement. We recognize the importance of hiring and training reliable and caring DSPs.

Our meticulously maintained homes and caring staff—including DSPs—enable us to provide the highest level of service for the individuals we care for. We also work to continuously improve our services and homes in order to provide the best care for our residents now and in the future.

NCFL also has an Adult Achievement Center Day Program that offers the most robust and diverse calendar of activities for those we serve. We recognize the need for quality services for every extraordinary individual in northern New Jersey and are committed to expanding. NCFL is currently building new community residences (group homes) in Old Tappan, Mahwah, Hillsdale, and Upper Saddle River—as well as planning to open a larger Day Program Facility in 2023—and is dedicated to finding ways to further expand and grow to better serve our community! You can learn more about the work we do, make a donation to support our mission, contact us for more information, or request placement for a loved one today!

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