FAQ: What Do DSPs Do?

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1666880333481{padding-top: 1px !important;}”]Direct Support Professionals, or DSPs, are at the core of our mission here at Skills! Our Direct Support Professionals are essential workers who support people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in our Community Homes and Day Programs. Interested in learning more about what a DSP does? Check out the Q&A with three Skills DSPs below!

Jordan Baines Burke has worked at Skills’ Vocational Training program in Lewistown for three years. She supports people who come to the Vocational Training program to learn work skills, volunteer in their communities, and socialize with peers.

Amanda Hannon started her career as a DSP before earning a degree in Disability and Community Service and becoming a Behavior Support Specialist! Amanda still fills in as a DSP when needed and loves spending time with the people she supports.

Jen Shaffer works in one of Skills’ Community Homes. She’d never worked with anyone with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities before coming to Skills around a year ago, and she loves her job as a DSP. She enjoys going on community outings with the people she supports.

Keep reading to get answers to your questions about DSPs from Jordan, Amanda, and Jen!


What does an average day as a DSP look like?

Amanda: I usually start around 4:00 after I do my office job. I’ll come in, help the people I support take their medications, and then we’ll usually start dinner. After that, we just do whatever they want to do or they need support with. The people I support like to go out into the community in the evenings, whether it’s just a van ride or going shopping or stopping to get a drink somewhere.

Then we’ll come back to the house. We’ll make sure that they have their meds, any snacks. Help if they want any assistance with personal care, and then they’ll go to bed and we’ll finish the evening off with any paperwork that needs done.

We support them in really any goals they have: getting new jobs, going places they want to go, staying in touch with their families, making friends in the community.

Jen: I come in in the morning and let the person I support sleep until he’s ready to get up. Then I always go through his routine with him and help him get ready for the day to go out in the community. I help him with what he needs help with, but I encourage him to be independent too.

When he has downtime, he likes to listen to music. I’ll clean up, do laundry. And then we have meals together. I try to make sure I eat with him so that he feels like he’s part of a family and learns social cues for eating around other people. We go for rides, try to be outside when it’s nice, and try to find things to do inside when it’s not so nice. And then we get ready for bed. I check to make sure that he’s sleeping comfortably and feels safe, and see if he needs anything before I leave.


What’s the best part of being a DSP?

Jordan: My most favorite part of my job would be working with the individuals. You get to know them, and they get to know you. Every day they’re excited to see you. And it’s really nice.

Amanda: My favorite thing about my job is definitely working with the people I support. They’ve really become like family. They love unconditionally, and there’s really nothing like it. I always am smiling at work, and every day is different.

Jenn: Working as a DSP is and isn’t like I thought it would be. I knew that I’d be working with people with intellectual disabilities, but I didn’t realize the fun that we would have with them, the closeness we would get with them, and how safe they feel with us.



What are some of the challenges of being a DSP?

Jordan: Sometimes the people we support have bad days, so they do have their outbursts. But who doesn’t?

Two smiling women sit next to each other.

Amanda, left, spending time with a person she supports.

Amanda: I think right now one of the more challenging things is that this field is very short staffed and there might be a long hours or long weeks. But honestly even with those long weeks, I still love my job and I’m happy to come to work every day even though I might be a little tired. Because I enjoy spending my time with the people I support. They make it feel like you’re not even working a lot of times.

Jen: There are days when the people we support are having a rougher day and they just aren’t comfortable with themselves. They can’t focus to be able to do their daily activities as independently as they normally do, or they’re afraid of things or don’t understand a lot of things.

We support them emotionally if they’re having a rough day, and we celebrate their victories with them when they’re having a really good day. It’s challenging and rewarding at the same time.


What are some of the most fun things you’ve done at work?

Amanda: I have some really great memories spending time with the people I support and doing things like going to baseball games over the summer or taking people to Chocolate World.

Jen: I’ve taken one person I support fishing. We’ve gone to just look at water, look at nature, to look at Christmas lights. We’ve gone to the arcade, we go out for meals together.

Jordan: It’s really great when someone gets a job out in the community, or gets their first paycheck. All the work and all the struggles and all the happy moments lead to when an individual succeeds at what we are trying to do here and the VT, and it makes it all worth it.


What personality traits make a good DSP?

Jordan: A good quality for a DSP would definitely be understanding. That’s number one, because some people with intellectual disabilities don’t communicate through vocabulary. Another one would be compassion towards the individuals that they work with.

Amanda: I think some good personality traits for a DSP would be patience, kindness. Someone who’s bubbly, likes to joke around and have fun. Creativity is great, too.

Jen: Lots of patience and compassion. Empathy so you are willing to sit and listen to the people you support and let them feel safe with you. Being able to understand how they’re feeling even if they don’t quite know how to describe it.


Do you need experience to be a DSP?

Amanda: Nope! At Skills we have a lot of training and really a good team approach for helping people get started and find where they fit in in this field. I applied to be a DSP out of high school and got the job, and really, I think I found my passion that way.


Why should someone apply to be a DSP at Skills?

Jordan: It’s about the individual here, not about the business. We do everything we can to support the individuals, and everyone wants to see everybody grow. Everyone helps each other out here, and everyone’s really nice. And when you stay here, you get great opportunities.

Two people laughing while playing cards.

Jordan, left, playing cards with one of the people she supports.

Jen: It’s a good environment. I’ve always been told from the upper management that if you ever need anything you can reach out to them at any time, and they will help you or find someone to help you.

Amanda: I would encourage people that are interested in this field or anyone who enjoys working with people in general to apply to be a DSP because it’s a fun job, and you’re going to get a lot of reward out of your day because you’re helping someone

At Skills, I really feel like we have a great team approach. Some of the best friends I’ve made are from Skills.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row row_height_percent=”0″ overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ column_width_percent=”100″ shift_y=”0″ z_index=”0″][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_button button_color=”accent” size=”btn-lg” border_width=”0″ link=”url:http%3A%2F%2Fwww.skillsofcentralpa.org%2Fjobs”]Apply to be a DSP today![/vc_button][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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