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Welcome to the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals!

NADSP Quality Support videoTogether, we are working to enhance the status of direct support professionals and promote the development of a highly competent human services workforce. We recognize that people needing support are more likely to fulfill their life dreams if they have well-trained, experienced, and motivated people at their side in long-term, stable, compatible support relationships.

What's New @ NADSP

The National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals
cordially invites you to attend
NADSP’s Annual Meeting & Conference:  The Second One
June 4 & 5, 2016
The Sheraton, Atlanta, GA

Join us for an opportunity to connect with the very best of direct support professional development practices and information. We are excited to partner with AAIDD (American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities) and hold our second national conference.

Hear from national leaders like Dave Hingsburger, Lynne Seagle, Cathy Ficker Terrill Peggy Gould and John Raffaele on the NADSP Code of Ethics & more! You will have an opportunity to learn best practices, share stories, network and gain insight on building direct support excellence!

On Saturday evening, June 4th, we will be honoring Regis Obijiski with our second “John F. Kennedy Jr. Award for Direct Support Professional Advocacy & Leadership”. This award, named for the ideological founder of the NADSP, will recognize Regis Obijiski for histireless advocacy and support of direct support professionals.

Who should attend the conference?

  • Direct Support Professionals: The conference is geared toward building direct support professionalism and will inspire those who are currently doing the work.
  • Agency Administrators, Trainers and Human Resources
  • Professionals:Provider agency leaders will gain vital information about addressing the serious issues confronting direct support workforce recruitment, retention and building a culture of direct support competence
  • People with disabilities:Self-advocates are important partners in building direct support competence and recognition and we encourage people with disabilities to come and share your direct support perspective.
  • Parents and family members: We hope to encourage our guests and those attending the Sibling Leadership Network’s conference an opportunity to network!
  • I/DD Professionals:Professionals, including researchers, can gain a stronger understanding of direct support practice and how “quality id defined at the point of interaction”.
  • Policy Makers: In order to address some serious issues like low wages, access to quality training, career paths and credentialing – we hope to engage policy makers on the vital connection that exists between people receiving support and those who directly provide it.
NADSP Conference Agenda:

To see the preliminary conference agenda, click here.

NADSP Conference Options:

o   Member Full Conference – Registration includes both Saturday and Sunday attendance to the conference as well as lunch at the conference on Sunday.  $179.

o   Non-Member Full Conference – Registration includes both Saturday and Sunday attendance to the conference with lunch on your own during the conference on Sunday.  $199.

Registration Information:

To register for the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) Conference, you must register through the AAIDD (American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities) Conference registration process. You are welcome to attend the AAIDD Conference for an additional fee, though you do NOT need to in order to attend the NADSP Conference.  A variety of registration options are available for the NADSP Conference, they are listed below in detail.  You can register for NADSP’s Conference online or by mail/fax.

To register online:

Visit the AAIDD website conference page, you can do so by clicking here.  Remember registration opens on Monday, March 7th.

Refund Policy: All refunds must be requested by May 22, 2016 and must be in writing. No refunds will be honored after May 22, 2016. All refunds will be subject to a cancellation fee of $20 for the NADSP Conference.


The NADSP Conference will be held at The Sheraton in Atlanta, GA. (Click here for more hotel information) There is a designated conference rate of $139 per night. Make sure when you call to reserve your room that you mention the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities group rate. (It’s important to say the entire name and not abbreviate it!)  Please book early as there are only a certain number of rooms reserved for the conference. 

Sponsorship Opportunities:

Interested in Sponsorship? Click here to learn more information.

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Direct Support Professionals (DSP) Workforce


Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) have long sought lives where they can be fully contributing and valued members of their communities.  Federal regulations including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and more recently the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) Settings Rule and the US Department of Labor Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) have set forth standards aimed at making inclusion and employment a reality. The availability of a qualified, competent, and stable Direct Support Workforce plays an important role in supporting people to accomplish these goals.  To be successful, it is critical that Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) have the competence, confidence, and ethical decision-making skills with the guidance necessary to provide quality support, receive compensation that is commensurate with job responsibilities, and have access to a career path aligned with ongoing professional development. 

The stability of the direct support workforce has been a long-standing issue across disability service systems. The field is plagued with high turnover at a time when demand for additional direct support professionals to support both disability and aging populations in the United States is peaking.  It is estimated that nationally more than one million new direct support positions will need to filled by 2022. This growing demand combined with limited availability of training and education and increased expectations and requirements make it essential that there be increased investment in this vital workforce. 

The United States is at a critical juncture where workforce development, education, and disability service systems must implement strategies to increase the capacity and quality of the direct support workforce.  Action is necessary if we are to provide the support people with IDD need to live and participate in their communities.  Self-advocates and family-advocates have fought hard for decades to ensure that supports provided are person-centered, increase inclusion, and lead to valued lives for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  Researchers, practitioners, and policy-makers have recommended recruitment, retention, and education strategies to address this critical workforce need, however, they have yet to be sufficiently funded or brought to scale.  If the charge to address the workforce crisis is not acted upon, the entire disability service system is at risk of going back to days of institutionalization, segregation, and stigmatization, turning the clock back on decades of advocacy and disregarding the voice of people with developmental disabilities across the country.  

Low Wages
Wages paid to direct support professionals are comparable to those paid for entry level low wage positions in nearly all service industries. Insufficient wages affect workforce retention and the quality of support provided.  There is a significant discrepancy between the job responsibilities and skill expectations required of DSPs and their low wages.  Nearly half of direct support workers in the U.S. rely on public benefits.  Others often work two to three jobs to support themselves and their families. Wages need to be increased. This, combined with other work related stressors, lead to DSP turnover which results in ineffective and inconsistent support for people with IDD.  

Limited Training, Career Path and Credentialing Opportunities
The DSP role is complex because it is about supporting each individual in a person centered way within their unique context. The workforce must have the knowledge, skills, and ethical compass to perform a wide array of tasks that support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities be healthy, safe, valued, and participating members of their communities.  To achieve this, it is important that DSPs receive sufficient, high-quality training and opportunities for paid professional development on an ongoing basis.  

No federal minimum training requirements exist for DSPs. Career pathways that provide DSPs an opportunity to increase competency and professionalism are a recommended strategy to improve retention of the workforce and quality of support.  The National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have identified nationally validated competencies for DSPs that recognize the knowledge, skills, and abilities need by DSPs to effectively support individuals with disabilities in the community. Several national organizations offer credential programs for DSPs who support people with IDD in varied roles. Despite the identification of required competencies, related credentialing and guidance[1] from Medicaid about how to build training into HCBS reimbursement rates[2], use of established competencies to set workforce development and training standards is not widespread.

Ineffective Supervision and Organizational Support
DSPs are faced with fulfilling an increasing number of responsibilities in more autonomous situations.  This will require that they be provided the professional development opportunities and have the support they need to ensure they are competent to provide support and be successful in their work.  The supervision they receive is frequently inconsistent and ineffective. This can result from frontline supervision being the default career ladder for DSPs, often achieved without the requisite preparation necessary to succeed. It is important that supervisors are competent in critical skills to being an effective supervisor in long term services and supports for people with disabilities.  

DSPs must be supported to effectively understand and utilize person-centered approaches designed to increase community inclusion for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  Often systems and organizations promote these concepts but do not shift their organizational culture and practices to align with them. These changes may include increased use of technologies, flexible staffing patterns, and providing DSPs with the education and resources they need to make connections and build capacity within the community. 

Evidence-based practice must be widely implemented to increase the ability of individuals, families, and employers to recruit, retain, and ensure the competence of DSPs to improve the quality of life and outcomes of supports provided to people with IDD. A comprehensive approach to address the need to build capacity within the direct support workforce, which should include the following:

  • Allocate federal and state funding at levels sufficient to provide living wages and the benefits necessary to attract and retain qualified DSPs in home and community based services. 
  • Provide credentialing opportunities, career pathways, and ongoing competency-based training and mentoring, embedded in public policy and sufficiently funded to create incentives for DSP participation. 
  • Ensure frontline supervisors are adequately trained and support to effectively recruit, retain, and support DSPs.
  • Implement and evaluate the use of technologies as a universally-designed option for support while simultaneously providing relief to the increased demand for support and support workers. 
  • Ensure DSPs have opportunities for needed training, mentoring, and professional development to effectively assist people with IDD to be fully included, valued, and participating members of their communities. 

Board of Directors, 
American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities 
April 20, 2016

Board of Directors, 
Nation Alliance of Direct Support Professionals
April 12, 2016

[1] Robbins, E., Dilla, B., Sedlezky, L., Sirek, A.J. (2013). Coverage of Direct Service Workforce Continuing Education and Training within Medicaid Policy and Rate Setting: A Toolkit for State Medicaid Agencies. The Lewin Group. Retrieved from: https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid-chip-program-information/by-topics/long-term-services-and-supports/workforce/downloads/dsw-training-rates-toolkit.pdf 

[2] Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (2015). Questions and Answers: Administrative Claiming Related to Training and Registry Costs. Retrieved from: https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid-chip-program-information/by-topics/financing-and-reimbursement/downloads/qa-training-registry-costs-071015.pdf

NADSP National Partners

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