Impact on the Lives of People With Intellectual Development Disabilities

Direct Support Professionals:

Impact on the Lives of People With

Intellectual Development Disabilities

Author, 1st Choice Family Services


In the United States, people with intellectual development disabilities (IDD) live like most others. These are people with substantial limitations first evident in their developmental period that stem from different circumstances. A few examples are autism and cerebral palsy. Many of them have lifelong needs that require assistance from others. They have lasting mental and physical impairments that limit their ability to perform tasks or live independently. To have a better quality of life, these individuals require assistance and support in areas of learning, self-care, making decisions, independent living and finding employment.

Some may think that these individuals live comfortably because of the support they get from their families and friends, but in reality they have their fair share of struggles. Despite their condition, they still can contribute to their communities as neighbors, friends, co-workers, voters, and taxpayers. It may be challenging for them to live their everyday lives but with a much-needed aide, it can be a lot easier.

According to website’s topic on Direct Support Crisis, there are about 5 million Americans with IDDs (2001), and only about 1.4 million of them are receiving care from direct support agencies (2016), which makes the direct support work as one of the highest-demand workforces in the U.S.

People with intellectual disabilities rely on direct support professionals (DSPs) for daily support that enables them to live and integrate into their communities. DSPs provide hands-on support to individuals with IDD. People with IDD can function at their best if they are provided with the care that DSPs provide.

DSPs help them with their day-to-day tasks around the house, prepare meals for them, eat with them, assist them with bathing, grooming and groceries. Plus, they watch movies together, listen to music, and go out into to the community with them. All of these things help form good relationships.

DSPs are also responsible for making sure that the clients’ displays of behaviors are well reported and documented. Many assume that a career as a DSP is about extending another pair of hands to the clients, but it is more than that. There is extensive training that a DSP must go through to be certified for the post. DSPs have to be prepared and ready for whatever situation they are faced with. They are confronted with physical and emotional exhaustion but still provide a service to clients that helps them achieve a better quality of life.

For most DSPs, this is not just a job, it amounts to commitment and sacrifice. And this is what makes the job rewarding. Sadly, not many people take on the responsibility of addressing the concerns of others before their own.

Based on the study conducted by the Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities in 2017, the number of DSPs does not match the phase of the growing population of people with IDD. This DSP crisis impacts not only individual and families, but is also extremely costly to the human services system. This scarcity in the DSP workforce puts people with IDD who need assistance at great risk of harm and leads many of these people to reconsider more expensive institutional models of segregated care outside their homes. Addressing the direct support workforce crisis will sustain and improve opportunities for individuals with IDD to participate in and contribute meaningfully to all facets of society, and most certainly constitute a response to real human needs.

The workforce available in the health field must be taken seriously. If there is a continued crisis of DSP availability, people with IDD and their families will suffer. It will mean there will be less of a chance to participate in their communities and become more independent with their daily routines. They may lose heart about achieving quality experiences and a better life.

In summary, while the world is busy running after progress, there are essential fields that remain unnoticed and many people do not know about a career as a DSP.  People still may not know how vital this role is to the lives of many families who need the help and support only DSPs can provide. At present, DSP work is considered one of the most rewarding jobs there is. Working with people with IDD not only provides a source of income but also gifts you with family. If you are someone looking to become a DSP, the key to a successful career is finding the best direct support agency that will provide extensive training to support your clients’ needs.  People may assume that the DSP workforce does not receive enough training, that they work overtime without time off, and that pay is not reasonable. On the contrary, becoming a DSP provides emotional fulfillment, financial stability and opens many doors of opportunity.

In summary, more DSPs are greatly needed for those with IDD, their families and our communities.