Frontline Initiative Direct Support Professionals

In Action:
Community Support Skills Standards


Tim Lister works at TARC Senior Services in Topeka, Kansas.

As a Direct Support Professional (DSP), my educational opportunities have been found in unusual places. Six months ago, an insightful class on how people progress through the stages of Alzheimer’s disease resulted from a call I made to the Alzheimer’s association whose number is in the yellow pages. Recently, I met a hospice counselor at Dairy Queen and acquired training for myself and my team.

Unquestionably, the most useful and productive training I have had was the College of Direct Support (CDS). There are twelve modules (each has 4–8 lessons) with subjects appropriate for any DSP. This training is supported by the NADSP because “it recognizes the need for DSPs to have easy access to high-quality training opportunities built on established competencies and ethical guidelines, and that provide usable information necessary to do the job more effectively, while working towards advanced skills (NADSP, 2004).” Here is how I use what I learned from the CDS —

Supporting Healthy Lives Course

I use the OAR (Observe, Assess, React) system taught in the Supporting Healthy Lives module on a daily basis. Being able to accurately describe what I observe and assess speeds the reaction of medical professionals during times of concern.

Introduction to Developmental Disabilities Course

I had chills run up my spine as I learned the painful history of people with developmental disabilities. I still wonder how human beings can treat other humans so badly. I found my resolve to see justice for all in my lifetime strengthened. 

Teaching People with Developmental Disabilities Course

While completing the Teaching People with Developmental Disabilities module, I gained new insight into teaching strategies. For some, aging creates the need to learn new skills like using a walker or putting on an incontinence undergarment. Having more methods of teaching has helped me find better ways for each individual to learn.

Positive Behavior Supports Course

The Positive Behavior Support module was challenging but helpful. As the team I work with sorted through a daily challenging behavior, I was able to ask questions to determine that a medication was the cause of the behavioral challenge for one person we support. The CDS is the only reason I knew what to ask.

Unfortunately, funding for the CDS in Kansas ended in July, 2005. Accessing more education has been an effort in vigilance, searching for skills so I can better support people. My search will not end. I will continue to read. One of my searches led me to my favorite book, Beauty is the Beast: Appearance-impaired Children in America, by Ann Hill Beuf. My understanding of how people that look different are treated by our society was changed. Now I understand that appearing and acting different have potential lifelong consequences.

I learn anywhere I can — from the DSPs in my faith community, from the life experiences of families I support, and possibly from you. If you know of any good books or Web sites, send a list of them to me or any other DSP you know who is searching for skills. The people we support will be grateful and will receive better supports.

Community Supports Skills Standards

Competency Area 7: Education, Training and Self-Development

The community-based support practitioner should be able to identify areas for self improvement, pursue necessary educational/training resources, and share knowledge with others.