Frontline Initiative: DSPs Using the NADSP Code of Ethics

Supporting Self-Determination in People’s Life of Possibilities


Nicholas Smith is Lead Direct Support Professional-1 at Special People in the Northeast (SPIN) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Nick can be reached at

Video from the Web version of this publication:

Frontline Initiative: Self Determination:

FI: Tell us about your role as a direct support professional.

My role as a DSP is a very beautiful role, a very intimate role, a very professional role. So we cover the gambit of everything. So we are support staff. We are there in time of need. We are there in time of crisis. We are there in development. The best part of my job is to watch somebody grow into the person they want to become. As we say, a life of possibilities. That's our thing. So when you see that happen, that right there is the payment. I don't want to say payment, but that is the reward to see a young man or a young lady achieve their dreams and their wants.

FI: Tell us a story about how you support self-determination.

If somebody I'm supporting decides they want pizza, sure they can eat pizza, but we try to advocate for healthy choices. Healthy options. We can find a healthy pizza. We still can do pizza, maybe not as many slices, but we try to do healthy options. And the young man I'm supporting, he was like, “Nick, I want pizza. I want pizza. I don't care.” And we try to watch some of that grease and stuff, but this is what he wanted. Like I said, “Sure, we can make it happen.” Maybe we could find a better pizza. But he was like, “I want Little Caesars.” And I said, “okay.” We pull up and then we're going about to go in. And he said, “Nick, I changed my mind.” I said, “What do you mean?” He was like, “You know what, I've been thinking about it. Let's go get a healthy hoagie.” I'm like, “no, we can get pizza.” No, no. He was like, “I kind of want to, I've been losing weight. I've been walking, playing tennis. I'm getting out more and I kind of want to keep the train going.”

So there are little moments like that all the time where you see somebody grow and make decisions for themselves and feel empowered in their lives. They're like that. That's my best day. When you say, “Hey listen, I want to do this, or achieve a new goal.” Hey, listen Nick, I want to start walking more. Okay? We can walk more. We can get out to the track. We can find somewhere to go like that and then hold me accountable to it. Hey Nick, when you come in, when you come in to work, we're walking between six and seven. You got it. Those are the moments I live for.

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