Frontline Initiative DSP Recognition

Promoting DSPs:
The NADSP Credentialing Program

Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) play an important role in the lives of individuals and the community. This work requires an advanced level of skills, knowledge, and abilities to do well. Competency-based training and other professional development opportunities can help DSPs provide quality and effective supports to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

The National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) has developed a national credentialing program for DSPs working in community-based human services. The purpose of this credentialing program is to provide national recognition for the contributions and competence of DSPs who apply for and meet the credentialing standards.

Benefits of Credentialing

  • Credentialed DSPs feel valued and take pride in their direct support work.
  • Credentialed DSPs have greater employment opportunities, job security, and promotions.
  • Certifications are portable —DSPs moving to a different region bring their certifications with them and do not have to demonstrate or re-document their competence simply because they have moved.
  • People outside the field of community human services will see direct support work as an authentic profession with a career path.
  • Employers will see an increase in the consistency of high quality supports delivered by credentialed DSPs.
  • Individuals receiving support services will lead higher quality lives because DSPs will have the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to support individuals’ preferences and personal goals.

NADSP DSP credential

The NADSP credentialing program affords DSPs the opportunity to commit to the profession of direct support through its three-tiered credential program (Registered, Certified, and Specialty levels):

DSP-R (registered level)

  • Complete all mandatory state and agency training requirements

This is the first level of credential offered. The DSP-R is intended to recognize people who have entered the profession and desire to have careers in the field of community human services.

DSP-I (certified initial level)

  • Total training hours: 100 (cumulative from DSP-R) • Total on-the-job learning hours: 1,500
  • Submit portfolio work samples based on 4 competency areas (see page 13)

DSP-II (certified advanced level)

  • Total training hours: 200
  • Total on-the-job learning hours: 3,000
  • Submit portfolio work samples based on 4 or more competency areas

 The certified levels of credentialing recognize DSPs who have demonstrated competence that is measured and approved by the NADSP. These credentials set this group of DSPs apart from other DSPs in that they have demonstrated skills that typical entry level DSPs would not have acquired.

DSP – III (certified specialist level)

  • Total training hours: 240 (cumulative from previous)
  • Submit 6 portfolio work samples demonstrating competencies in specialty area
There are six specialist areas in which DSPs can seek credentialing —
  1. Positive Behavioral Support (DSP-S-PBS)
  2. Health Support (DSP-S-HS)
  3. Inclusion (DSP-S-I)
  4. Supervision & Mentoring (DSP-S-MS)
  5. Employment Supports (DSP-S-ES)
  6. Aging Supports (DSP-S-AS)

The specialist certificate is designed to recognize DSPs who have obtained specialized training and have demonstrated competence in providing specialized support to individuals with disabilities in community human services.

Competency areas
  • Participant Empowerment
  • Communication
  • Assessment
  • Community and Service Networking
  • Facilitation of Services
  • Community Living Skills & Supports
  • Education, Training, & Self-Development
  • Advocacy
  • Vocational, Educational, & Career Support
  • Crisis Prevention & Intervention
  • Organizational Participation
  • Documentation
  • Building and Maintaining Friendships and Relationships
  • Provide Person-Centered Supports
  • Supporting Health and Wellness