Our History

NADSP has decades of experience in advancing the interests of the DSP workforce


The NADSP was created by a small group of committed of professionals that included John F. Kennedy, Jr. when he was the President of Reaching Up and involved with the New York State Consortium for the Study of Disabilities at the City University of New York. Since those early days, the NADSP has promoted the development of a highly competent and ethical direct support workforce that supports people with disabilities in achieving their life goals.


NADSP raised the national profile of Direct Support and introduced professional standards in partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor. Working closely with the Department of Labor, NADSP, crafted apprenticeship standards aligning with the nationally validated Community Support Skill Standards and rallied national groups to endorse these guidelines. The standards were issued by the Department of Labor in 2001. These standards have been used by employers and state’s to provide the structure for professional certification/credentialing programs. NADSP developed the Code of Ethics to bring professionalism to the field of direct support. Over a period of two years DSP’s from around the country attended focus groups to give their input on the ethics they thought direct support professionals had to have. They identified nine broad areas. These nine areas were used to create the framework for the Code of Ethics. A national group of DSPs and other disability advocates came together again to further develop and finalize the Code of Ethics. Now widely disseminated, the code offers direct support professionals, individuals with disabilities, service organizations and family members a standard of conduct and professionalism for the direct support workforce.


NADSP, in partnership with the at the University of Minnesota, established the Moving Mountains Awards are presented to organizations and agencies that have demonstrated best practice in direct support workforce development. Nominations are solicited nationally and submissions are reviewed by a panel of NADSP members and other industry leaders. Selection criteria are based on the mission and of the NADSP’s Guiding Principles.


NADSP was one of eleven founding organizations of the Alliance for Full Participation (AFP). The goal of the AFP is “Full realization of the vision of people with developmental disabilities living meaningful, productive and personally satisfying lives in their community of choice”. This exciting collaboration has brought together thousands of people and organizations committed to the successful inclusion of people with developmental disabilities into the mainstream of American life.


The NADSP board of directors issued a union neutrality statement.

NADSP became incorporated as a 501(c) 6 non-profit organization that allows the association to become a tax-exempt membership organization. While NADSP is not allowed to do fund-raising, it can be involved in lobbying efforts.

The NADSP Board of Directors established the NADSP Community Service Award. This award is given at the discretion of the NADSP Board of Directors in recognition of significant contributions made to NADSP by an NADSP member. This first award was given on September 20, 2005 to Traci LaLiberte, of the Institute on Community Integration at the University of Minnesota.


Currently, there are 15 NADSP Chapters & Affiliates in states across the U.S. NADSP state affiliates are direct support advocacy groups or individuals interested in direct support issues, who provide NADSP with information on what’s important to DSP’s in their area. Affiliates also interact with other NADSP members, learning about new ideas and strategies they can use in their home states to continue advocating for direct support issues.


NADSP announces the first ever, national credentialing program for Direct Support Professionals (DSPs). The purpose of this credentialing program is to provide recognition for the contributions and competence of direct support workers who apply for and meet the NADSP credentialing standards. It is designed to provide a portable credential that represents consistency in direct support education, work-based learning and competence.

NADSP launches the NADSP Accreditation Program. This is a companion program to NADSP’s Direct Support Credentialing program designed to review and accredit training and education programs that meet NADSP educational standards to offer the Direct Support Credential. The NADSP Accreditation Program is designed to assure that all programs delivering the NADSP Credential provide educational conditions and curricula that are aligned with the NADSP Direct Support Credential requirements, competencies & Code of Ethics and provide the best quality support and education to program participants.


The National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals Foundation, (the Foundation), was formed and is operated exclusively for purposes in support of the NADSP and its charitable and educational activities. The organization accepts gifts and donations as a charitable organization under 501(c) 3.


NADSP, in concert with the U.S. Department of Labor, clarified the standards and expectations of the DSP apprenticeship program, initially developed in 2001, to align with the NADSP credentialing program.


The NADSP was one of fifteen organizations to host an historic national conference to find solutions to the challenges facing increasing integrated employment for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Summit 2.0 Real Jobs–It’s Everyone’s Business was a highly interactive convening of the leaders of the intellectual and developmental disabilities community to address the challenges and barriers facing increasing integrated employment for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The NADSP announced the launch of the NADSP Competency set on the U.S. Department of Labors Competency Model for Long-Term Care Supports & Services Model – the first set of long-term care supports & services competencies to receive such approval by US Department of Labor.

The NADSP hired its first Executive Director and completed a seven-month transition from its long time home at the University of Minnesota’s Research and Training Center.


The NADSP’s Code of Ethics was adopted by the New York State’s Office for People with Developmental Disabilities that oversees more than 75,000 direct support professionals who work for public and non-profit organizations and are receiving training on the Code of Ethics.

The NADSP developed “Doing the Right Thing When Nobody is Looking” – A One Day Exploration into The Code of Ethics, an intensive, one-day training program to educate direct support professionals and their supervisors while making the code of ethics understandable. The one-day training focuses on direct support practice and their need to recognize the immense ethical responsibilities in supporting people with disabilities. The purpose of the one-day training is to assist organizations by immersing their staff in the complex world of ethics in a way that is educational and measurable.


In order to increase accessibility for applicants, the national direct support credential, DSP-C, was modified to reflect two levels; DSP-C Level I (Initial) and DSP-C Level II (Advanced).

The NADSP co-sponsors National Direct Support Professional Recognition Week., sponsored by the United States Senate and 35 state Governors, the 2013 recognition week was the most widely accepted in its five year history.

The NADSP joins nine other national organizations as a partner with CQL – The Council on Quality and Leadership and now has a seat on its board of directors.


NADSP hosted a national webinar that introduced the concept of “Informed Decision Making and The Direct Support Professionals Emerging Role”. The NADSP is now in the process of creating a “Train-the-Trainer” curriculum that will be offered to states and providers in meeting the new CMS Community Regulations for HCBS Waiver Services.

Learning Annex is launched – The NADSP Learning Annex is a monthly webinar geared towards direct support professional soft skills and personal development.


NADSP hosted our first national conference (The First One) in Louisville, KY where 230 participants from 27 states joined us for an engaging and provocative two days of learning, discussion and celebration.

NADSP recognized Dr. Amy Hewitt for her decades-long support and advocacy on behalf of direct support professionals by awarding her our first John F. Kennedy Jr. Award.


      • Reached 16,500 direct support professionals and other participants in our trainings, webinars and face to face offerings
      • Worked in partnership with New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities in piloting an Informed Decision Making program. NADSP presented the essential components of our Informed Decision Making Curriculum to 60 organizations and hundreds of participants throughout New York State.
      • Formalized and published the NADSP Informed Decision Making (IDM) Train the Trainer Curriculum and began to market it nationally.
      • Continued to partner and co-facilitate DSP-Dialogues with The New York State Justice Center reaching 200 direct support professionals and educating them about the Justice Center.
      • Executive Director, Joseph Macbeth, was appointed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to the New York State Justice Center’s Advisory Board
      • In June, we hosted the NADSP Annual Conference; The Second One in Atlanta, GA. 275 participants.
      • In contract with New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, NADSP facilitated 10 training sessions on best practice in using the OPWDD Direct Support Professional Evaluation Tool; a mandated competency-based performance and development tool to be utilized and implemented for use with 110,000 NY State direct support professionals.
      • Began to pilot and develop, in Iowa and South Dakota, what will be known eventually as the NADSP Frontline Supervisor Train the Trainer Curriculum.
      • In December 2016 hired full time Director of Educational Services, the third full-time position in the NADSP’s history.


      • Reached 12,500 direct support professionals and other participants in our trainings, webinars and face to face offerings
      • Continued to co-facilitate DSP Dialogues with the New York State Justice Center to reach ultimately another 100 direct support staff from around New York.
      • NADSP received the New York State Justice Center Code of Conduct Award for Excellence in promoting ethical and best support practices with NY State’s vulnerable citizens.
      • In September, we hosted the NADSP Annual Conference; The Third One in Omaha, NE. 300 participants.
      • Finalized, published and began to nationally market the NADSP Frontline Supervisor Train-the-Trainer Curriculum: From Management to Leadership.
      • Facilitated a three day teaching residency with trainers from a training collaborative of six organizations from New York to develop a protracted learning cohort using the NADSP Frontline Supervisor Curriculum material.
      • Provided Code of Ethics and Competency training to the New York State Justice Center Investigators.
      • Contracted with and initiated the NADSP 80% Solution Technical Assistance Program with organizations in Montana and Oregon. The program consists of a year-long ongoing effort with organizations to utilize and implement the NADSP Competencies, Code of Ethics, training curricula and overall best practices.
      • The NADSP co-authored the 2017 Report to the President: America’s Direct Support Workforce Crisis: Effects on People with Intellectual Disabilities, Families, Communities and the U.S. Economy for the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.