Discovery: A career as a Direct Support Professional (DSP) can begin a number of ways: some begin working part time during college and others are introduced through career fairs. But any way that a DSP begins, it is ultimately a passion for people, for making a difference and an expectation that they can make a difference. Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities comprise a significant number of individuals within our country. According to one study, the number of people with some form of disability is put at 61 million.

Disability Inclusion

Inclusion is never accidental: it is the byproduct of an advocate. By including people with disabilities in the context of everyday activities, they are able to identify and learn roles within these different situations. Disability inclusion means understanding the relationship between the way people function and how they participate in society, making sure everybody has the same opportunities to participate in every aspect of life.

At Lifespire, a big part of the job is bringing people the support they might need in everyday situations. The quality of that support can translate into creating an environment that fosters learning for the skills necessary to function. Some of the ways that Lifespire goes about accomplishing this is through field trips. They are not only interactive learning experiences but go everywhere and create memories that last forever. Lifespire as an organization provides many opportunities for DSPs to integrate everyday skills into everyday life. Some individuals refer to this as disability inclusion, but this is more about the normalization that comes about when individuals learn to integrate into social situations. One of the times that this integration principle was put into effect was back in the ‘70s when Dr. Jim Normandy decided to bring a group of individuals that he was serving to an iconic and historic luncheonette called Shaffers in Staten Island. Shaffers was frequented by many of the workers from Willowbrook. What took place that day was in itself historic: the group of people Dr. Normandy brought walked into a local destination where all the staff from Willowbrook went for lunch. They would grab a sandwich and a beer. But what shocked everyone was the idea that those with Dr. Normandy could order sandwiches and even beer and have their own lunch hour. Dr. Normandy remembered his group being handed a menu from which they ordered their sandwiches and draft beers. At first everyone was quiet looking at what was actually happening: history. But what was truly happening was that history was being rewritten by everyone at Shaffers that day.

Professional Development

The other great benefit to working at Lifespire is the professional development training and credentialing that allows for advancement and promotion. Credentialing is a great way to acquire the expertise necessary to improve the quality of the programs. Lifespire covers the cost of any credentialing, training and classes. All of the energy is directed to support adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to be empowered to live lives that exceed all expectations and allow them to pursue opportunities as they present themselves.

An Issue Too Large to Ignore

In 2016, using the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services six-question set, it was found that one in four (61 million) U.S. adults reported any disability, including those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments. Mobility was the most prevalent disability type (13.7%), followed by cognition (10.8%), independent living (6.8%), hearing (5.9%), vision (4.6%), and self-care (3.7%). This issue of disability is NOT GOING AWAY! And neither is Lifespire!