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10 Free Training Resources for DSPs

From CPR/first aid to CESP training, these free training resources will help your DSPs improve their knowledge and skills without breaking the bank.

Looking for free or low-cost training resources for your DSPs? Look no further!  

 

Below, we’ve compiled a list of 10 free training resources that can help direct support professionals (DSPs) enhance their skills and knowledge. These include courses on topics like behavior and mental health, as well as certifications that are necessary for certain job requirements or to fulfill regulatory obligations. 

 

In addition, we’ll share some ideas to help reduce the cost of required training and certifications. Let’s get started! 

Free DSP training resources

1. National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) Training Resources

If you’re looking for some general training resources for your DSPs, NADSP is a great place to start. NADSP offers a range of free training resources on their website, including webinars, videos, toolkits, and online courses. These resources cover various topics related to supporting individuals with disabilities and promoting person-centered care. For instance, NADSP recently hosted a free virtual training on best practices in supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who identify as LGBTQIA+. 

2. DirectCourse online training

DirectCourse offers a collection of online training courses specifically designed for DSPs. These courses cover topics such as person-centered supports, positive behavior support, and health and wellness.  

 

While their courses require a fee, many state agencies provide free or low cost access for DSPs. For example, the Minnesota Department of Human Services (MDHSS) and Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities offer access to free online training options through DirectCourse. Check with your state agency to see if they provide access to DirectCourse.  

3. Capabilities CESP training

Need CEUs for Certified Employment Support Professional (CESP) recertification? Capabilities, a career rehabilitation provider in Ohio, hosts free CESP virtual training sessions twice a month. Training is accredited by APSE, and staff earn one CEU for each session they complete. 

4. Goodlife University

If you’re looking to learn more about workforce solutions to support your DSPs, you’ll want to check out GoodLife University. GoodLife U is a collaboration between GoodLife Innovations, a disability service provider in Kansas, and the University of Kansas Department of Applied Behavioral Sciences 

 

They’ve developed tons of valuable free content including a blog series, podcast, and video library to help you on your path to staff stability. For example, this video on filling the vacancy gap explains how to build a system that anticipates openings and has DSPs ready to fill these positions.

5. Did You Notice? behavior and communication training

When dealing with challenging behaviors, it’s important to recognize that all behavior is a form of communication.To that end, the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD) has developed a free training experience for DSPs called Did You Notice? that combines online learning and virtual reality to provide realistic training on behavior and communication. The pilot program is free for direct support professionals and anyone who supports people with developmental disabilities.  

6. American Red Cross CPR/first aid

Depending on the employer, most DSPs will need to have either CPR/first aid training or certification. While certification courses always require a fee, the Red Cross occasionally offers free CPR/first aid training classes or scholarships to the community. Check with your local Red Cross chapter to ask about any free training opportunities. 

7. Mental Health Wellness for Individuals with Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities (IDD)

DSPs play an important role in supporting the mental health and wellness of the individuals they serve. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission, along with UT Health San Antonio Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, has developed a free training program to educate DSPs about the mental health needs of individuals with IDD. Six training modules are available, covering topics from what it means to have a co-occurring IDD and mental health condition to trauma-informed care.  

8. State and local resources

For more training resources, check with your state or local agencies that oversee disability services. They often provide free training opportunities for DSPs, either through in-person workshops, webinars, or online materials. These resources can cover state-specific regulations, best practices, and specialized training areas. 

For example, the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities has developed a DSP Toolkit with information about career opportunities for DSPs, training-related resources, and leadership materials for managers and supervisors.  

9. Nonprofit organizations and associations

Many nonprofit organizations and associations dedicated to supporting individuals with disabilities offer free training resources for DSPs. Examples include The Arc, the Autism Society, and the National Down Syndrome Society. Visit their websites or reach out to them directly to inquire about available training materials. 

10. Open access online learning platforms

Many online learning platforms provide free educational content, such as Coursera, Udemy, Alison, edX, or Khan Academy. While they may not have specific DSP training courses, you can find relevant courses on topics like psychology, human services, or disability studies that can broaden DSPs’ knowledge and skills. 

 

For example, Alison offers a free American Sign Language – Fundamental Concepts course for beginners who want to learn the basics of sign language. The course takes 2-3 hours to complete and teaches the basics of the ASL alphabet, grammar, and sentence structure as well as deaf culture and the community behind it.  

Other ways to reduce the cost of training & certification

While free courses can provide valuable knowledge and skills, obtaining certification typically requires a fee. Certification may be necessary for certain job requirements or to fulfill regulatory obligations. This includes things like CPR/first aid training, chauffeur or food handling license. Here are a few possibilities that could help reduce the cost of obtaining these certifications: 

Government programs

In some cases, government assistance programs or workforce development initiatives may provide financial support or fee waivers for job-specific training or licensing. Contact government offices, such as the Department of Labor or the Administration for Community Living, to find out about programs that could help cover the cost of certifications. 

Scholarships or grants

Various nonprofit organizations, foundations, or community programs offer scholarships or grants for individuals pursuing specific career paths. Be sure to check out local community organizations or online scholarship search platforms to identify financial assistance opportunities. 

Train-the-trainer programs

Another way to lower the costs of training is to get someone at your agency certified to train others. This is known as a “train-the-trainer” model, and can be significantly more cost effective than sending each individual employee to training.  For instance, the Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) offers an instructor certification program that allows the individual to teach CPI’s training programs within their organization. 

Community organizations and nonprofits

Local community centers, YMCA/YWCA, nonprofits, or volunteer fire departments occasionally offer free or low-cost training classes (such as CPR and first aid) as part of their community outreach programs. Contact these organizations in your area to see about any upcoming courses or free training sessions.  

Online resources

While not always free, there are some online platforms that offer certification courses at a reduced cost compared to in-person training. Examples include the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association, which offer online courses with certification options for a fee.  

 

Is there another great free training resource that we missed? Let us know at hello@setworks.com so we can add it to the list!  

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