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Williamsport, Pa. – This week–September 13 through 19, 2020–is being observed nationally as Direct Support Professional Recognition Week. Direct Support Professionals, or DSPs, are the front-line workers at human services agencies that support people living with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

DSPs assist people with disabilities in daily living activities like personal care, feeding, cooking, cleaning, and medication management. They help people manage their finances and appointments. They transport and accompany people in the community so they can participate in recreational and social opportunities. They support clients in finding and keeping jobs. They help keep people safe.

A career as a DSP isn’t for everyone; to succeed as a DSP you need to have “grit.” Some days are just plain tough, so DSPs have to rise to the occasion.

At the same time, DSPs need to have “heart.” People with disabilities are vulnerable, so treating them with kindness, compassion, and respect is a must, not an option.

DSPs must also be advocates, since the people they support can’t always speak for themselves. Finally, because much of their day-to-day work involves teaching people the skills they need to accomplish their goals, DSPs also need to be mentors.

In addition, DSPs are considered essential workers, so they’ve been working quietly behind the scenes throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to help keep people safe and healthy. Whether teaching hand washing, showing people how to make and wear face masks, or teaching proper cleaning and sanitizing practices, DSPs have been hard at work protecting some or our community’s most vulnerable members.

Please join me in thanking all of the Direct Support Professionals in our community. Thanks to their tireless work, people living with intellectual or developmental disabilities receive the support they need to live everyday lives full of meaning and connection.