Frontline Initiative DSP Recognition

Moving Mountains:
Recognizing and rewarding best practices in direct support

The intellectual and develop- mental disabilities (I/DD) field is experiencing deep budget cuts and serious struggles in retaining quality staff. Despite these barriers there are a number of organizations that utilize best practices in direct support. The National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) and the University of Minnesota Research and Training Center (UofM RTC) recognize these leading programs with the Moving Mountains award. Winning organizations or programs embrace direct support workforce practices that align with the NADSP’s guiding principles. 

2013 Moving Mountains Award winner, Anderson Center for Autism, Staatsburg, New York

We are pleased to recognize the winner of the 2013 Moving Mountains award, the Anderson Center for Autism (ACA). Located in Staatsburg, New York, ACA offers all agency staff professional development opportunities through the ACA Career Ladder Learn and Earn Program. ACA created the Career Ladder Learn and Earn Program to support their mission and promise of serving people with ASD and develop- mental disabilities with the highest level of respect, integrity and competence available. It is ACA’s philosophy that a highly trained and educated workforce will have the ability to provide a higher quality of care, create stronger and more meaningful loyal relationships, and provide an environment that encourages learning. Throughthe ACA Career Ladder Learn and Earn Program, DSPs are encouraged, supported, and compensated for increasing their skills and developing a broad knowledge base necessary to perform at the highest possible proficiency level.

When the program began in 2002, the average number of college credits for a DSP working at ACA was 15. In 2008, the average number of college credits grew to 38. Now, the average number of college credits for the DSP at ACA is 52. ACA strives to support staff in educating themselves to participate at levels that are more sophisticated and to build careers that they will look back upon and say, “It started at Anderson and I am proud of my accomplishments.” Congratulations, ACA, for winning the 2013 Moving Mountains award!

Looking ahead to 2014!

Moving Mountains award recipients like ACA have taken the lead in improving the competence, status, compensation, and stability of the direct support workforce. They have shown that they value input from DSPs, self-advocates, and family members in developing their programs and initiatives. These organizations recognize their DSPs as valuable assets. NADSP and the UofM RTC, in turn, recognize these organizations by presenting them with a Moving Mountains award at the biennial Reinventing Quality Conference.

*This article was adapted with permission from Desjardins, J. (2008). Moving Mountains: NADSP Recognizes Best Practice. Frontline Initiative, 8(1), 6.