Because Western New York Needs You!

By Annette Pinder

What is a Direct Support Professional (DSP)?
Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) are individuals who assist people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities in reaching their full potential in becoming valued and participating members of their communities. Their work is complex and goes well beyond caregiving, requiring skills that include independent problem-solving, decision-making, behavioral assessment, medication administration, health and allied health treatment, teaching new skills, crisis prevention and intervention, and more.

What are the Responsibilities of a DSP?
The job duties of a DSP may resemble those of teachers, nurses, social workers, counselors, physical or occupational therapists, dieticians, chauffeurs, personal trainers, and others. DSPs must have strong communication skills and be able to build relationships with the people they support and their families. DSPs may work in family or individual homes, intermediate care facilities, residential group homes, community job sites, vocational and day programs, and other locations. Their work is determined by the unique needs and preferences of the individuals they support, and they are held to high ethical and professional standards.

Becoming a Nationally Certified DSP at No Cost to You!

The Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) in partnership with the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) and the State University of New York (SUNY) are providing a special grant program that provides full funding for tuition, fees, books, course materials, and NADSP credentialing. Niagara County Community College’s (NCCC) curriculum is hands-on and highly interactive. Successful completion of the program will give you:

  1. A SUNY micro-credential of up to 12 accredited and transferable academic credits that can be applied to future certificates and degrees at Niagara County Community College (NCCC) or other institutions;
  2. NADSP credential options for DSP-I and DSP-II;
  3. $750 incentive for eligible students completing at least one NADSP certification;
  4. On-site academic support enables you to earn money while learning. Work-based learning opportunities will be available through internship assignments for those currently not employed as a Direct Support Professional.

NCCC’s Agency partnerships for the OPWDD grant include Aspire of WNY, Beyond Support Network,

Community Services for Every1, Cradle Beach, Heritage Christian Services, People Inc., Suburban Adult Services Inc. (SASi), Bernard Fineson Developmental Disabilities Service Office (DDSO), Broome DDSO, and WNY DDSO.

So far, 71 participants have enrolled in NCCC’s program along with several hundred others at SUNY colleges across NYS. One student recently said, “I was able to work at my job rather than an internship and practice what I learned. The course supported my educational goals, and the experience made me realize how much I love doing what I do. Another student stated, “I would recommend this experience to others because not only is it credit towards a degree that you want to pursue, but it is an interactive and fun experience at a pace that works with your everyday busy life.”

The curriculum for this unique program is hands-on, highly interactive, and a wonderful opportunity for those who wish to enter the helping professions. Learn more and begin the NCCC application process at