Skip Navigation

The Evolutionary DSP

posted by Nicole Ericson on Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Historically, Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) served as caregivers for the individuals they supported. Leaving society with the perception that the DSP role was to “take care of” the day-to-day needs of those needing “taken care of”.  

Over the past few decades, the needs of those served began to change, thus the roles of DSPs evolving as well. Today, the role of a DSP goes beyond caregiving and focuses more broadly on supporting individuals living with disabilities to participate fully in their communities, live in integrated settings and seek competitive integrated employment.  

DSPs are tasked with not "doing for" but teaching howThe role of a DSP is to support an individual to live, work and grow as independently as possible and in a way that facilitates real opportunity, in real environments, taking safe risk with as much as discretion possible. Yes, discretion.  

The goal is for the public to never know that a person has a DSP or any type of support. This evolution in the DSP role facilitates far higher levels of personal growth and achievement, full life independence and natural relationships.  

Today a DSP’s work is designed to go unnoticed. The evolution of support in the DSP role is that of encouraging, advocating, providing emotional, physical, and daily supports - all in the background. It's facilitating confidence, independence, and social normalcy to the supported individual. The work of a DSP is allowing that individual to be and present themselves as independently as possible, as their very own individual with the continued opportunity to continue to live, learn, and grow.  

Each of us, regardless of disability, has struggles and barriers to overcome, none of us have our support systems always standing next us, to be talked to first, to be asked permission on our behalf… that isn’t a social norm for individuals living without a disability. Why make it one for those who are? We each learn from taking risks, making mistakes, finding solutions, and moving forward the next day with our lessons learned. DSPs each and every day are making some of the most substantial impacts on our world in more ways than one.   

About The Author

Nicole Ericson, EPI's Community Development Director, has been with the agency since 2010.