Personal Story

Impact Feature Issue on Direct Support Workforce Development

The NADSP Credential: How Being a DSP-R Affects My Life


Laura Pittman is a DSP-R, Administrative Assistant Training and Compliance, Orange Grove Center, Chattanooga, Tennessee.

September 30, 1981 was a day that changed my life, more so than I would have imagined back then. That was the day my son Jonathan was born. I have learned so much over the years not only by caring for my son, but also by going through the school systems in the places we have lived, the different testing that has been done to determine his placement in the classes, and the different physicians he has seen for his neurological disorder and his behavior issues. I guess I should explain a little more: Jonathan has intellectual disabilities, and speech and behavior issues. I’ve always been his primary caregiver – taking him to the doctor, dentist, psychiatrist, and school. I’ve always been the main brunt of his behaviors when he had them – I’ve been hit, bit, kicked and scratched. When it got real bad he was admitted to a hospital for a time.

Now you’re probably wondering what that has to do with being a Registered Direct Support Professional (DSP-R). Well, when I think about it, I’ve done Direct Support work since my son was born. I don’t consider caring for my son “work” mind you, but I don’t care any less for the women I’ve supported in the Comet Trail group home for the last eight years, or for the other women and men I’ve supported in other residential houses where I’ve worked as a substitute DSP. Taking care of my son gave me the experience to work in this field. It also gave me the confidence and the incentive to learn as much as I can so I can do a better job supporting every individual in whose home I have the privilege of working.

When I first read about the National Alliance for Direct Support Professional’s (NADSP) credentialing program I was very interested and excited. Having DSP credentials could not only assist us when we apply for a job, but we have the chance for advancement in the credentialing process. The best thing to me, though, was the fact that we get recognition for the work we do. The credentialing program will show government officials, employers, and even the families of the people we support that we are willing and committed to do the best we can to provide the quality support our individuals deserve.

I have recently transferred to the Training and Compliance Department of Orange Grove Center. The fact that I went the extra step and got my DSP-R credentials was a plus for my resume. I have also completed the American Heart Association CPR Instructor course and teach CPR classes here with another instructor, and have been attending Department of Mental Retardation Services classes so I will be able to teach our core training classes, too. Knowing I am doing my best to train quality DSPs and letting them know that we have a voluntary credentialing process out there is something I would have never thought I would be doing when I first began working in the group homes. To be honest, I’m proud of myself. My children and my husband have told me they are proud of me, too. I get a feeling of satisfaction when I look at my certificate hanging on the wall by my desk in the office.

Regardless of where I end up in my career, I’ll always be a DSP-R and eventually I hope to be a DSP-Specialist in Supervision and Mentoring. I will also continue to work in the group homes as much as I can, and do my best to enrich the lives of the people I support.