Working with people with disabilities is often described as “rewarding.” Certainly approaching it with the right mindset and skill set will make it rewarding for you as a direct support professional and also for the people you support.

The purpose of this manual is to encourage you to think about and interact with people with disabilities in much the same way you do with people who do not have disabilities. People with disabilities have the same wants and needs as anyone else. Their needs are not ‘special.’ Like most of us, people with disabilities want to feel a sense of belonging, they want to make contributions, and feel useful and productive. They want to love and be loved. They want to govern their own lives, including where and with whom they work, live, and play.

 When you see, meet, or think about a person with a disability, presume competence.

 - Kathie Snow

In order to be most successful, it is important to not only read the information in this manual and view the training slides, but also to discuss it with your supervisor/trainer and to ask questions as needed. Once you have learned the material, passed the test with a score of 80% or better and received your certificate of completion, you may begin to provide services offered through three waivers in Virginia: the Family and Individual Supports Waiver, the Community Living Waiver, and the Building Independence Waiver. However, the Division of Developmental Services (DDS) staff members hope that this is just the beginning of your learning process in how to become a great direct support professional. Please take every opportunity to learn more from other professionals and from people you support.


The Orientation Manual for Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) and Supervisors: Supporting People in their Homes and Communities has been updated several times through collaborative efforts with Community Services Boards, private providers, direct support professionals, people with disabilities and their families, and others in the disability field. Thanks to all who developed information and provided guidance over the years to inform practices in Virginia. We greatly appreciate your time to help improve the training of those who come after you.