Direct support professionals desire meaningful educational opportunities. The sad reality is that throughout North America, most direct support training is driven and designed by compliance and regulation versus education and development. Furthermore, most direct support professional training happens in a classroom setting. The National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) has addressed this issue and over the past 10 years and has created a myriad of robust and exciting educational and learning programs for direct support staff for the classroom and well beyond.

Validated and research-based materials are the basis for all our material. For instance, The National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) with the University of Minnesota has created a validated competency set for direct support workers in the United States. The NADSP competency areas are identified by the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration's Competency Model for Long-Term Care Supports and Services as providing industry sector technical competencies – the first and only set of LTSS competencies to receive such approval by the United States Department of Labor. The competencies are embedded in all our training curricula and are the primary focus of NADSP's in person and web-based teaching programs. The NADSP also provides other training products based on; The NADSP Code of Ethics, The National Frontline Supervisor Competencies and other research-based material.

The importance of direct support education and development cannot be understated. The NADSP mission is to spread the knowledge, skills and values of direct support practice through all our products. Direct support professionals are highly mobile, often working in remote locations and invariably non-traditional hours and settings. We need to ensure that we meet them where they are. One of the most popular and growing educational tools in higher education, professional development and business is the utilization of webinars. Virtual learning is now a standard method in our hightech society and we have recognized that. We captured this at the NADSP and webinars allow for busy direct support staff to take advantage of incredibly rich and engaging sessions anywhere/anytime. We are continually creating informative, educational and topical learning sessions that will focus on the needs of direct support professionals and expanding with whom we collaborate to ensure excellence in what we offer direct support professionals.

Each month, the NADSP offers several engaging and informative webinars that are built to expand the knowledge and skill sets of the direct support and frontline supervisory workforces. These are not your typical webinars, they're lively discussions that pull from some of North America's best minds in contemporary topics to support people with disabilities in community-based settings and lead to improving direct support practice standards. Webinars are convenient for direct support professionals in that they can be viewed anywhere and at any time if one has a computer or smart phone and has a connection to the internet. The NADSP has two types of webinars: the NADSP Learning Annex and "Let's Talk": A Webinar Series in Partnership with The International Journal of Direct Support and author, educator and speaker, Dave Hingsburger.

The NADSP Learning Annex Webinar series features industry experts and thought leaders, as well as our numerous NADSP teaching faculty, as they explore many topics relevant to the daily practice of direct support. These subjects include ethics, working with families, stress reduction, grief and loss and many other topics that embrace best practices for direct support. The "Let's Talk" series is a monthly collaboration between NADSP and The International Journal of Direct Support. The journal is a monthly publication edited and published by Dave Hingsburger and Vita Community Living in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The webinars dig deeper into journal articles and feature lively conversations with the authors featured from the journal. Dave Hingsburger acts as a moderator for these sessions. The topics covered include sexuality, abuse and neglect, working with people who have Prader-Willi syndrome, respectful language, guardianship and the list goes on.

The NADSP believes education for direct support professionals needs to be modern and needs to be synchronized with how adult professionals learn most effectively. Webinars cater to many learning styles. They are visual and auditory and, most notably, they are concise and portable. Direct support professionals have a limited amount of time for significant and meaningful educational experiences. Therefore, through utilizing one-hour webinar viewings that focus beyond typical regulation and compliance topics, NADSP believes that those who participate can acquire much needed education and professional development in a manner and method which resonates with their busy lifestyles. We invite the reader to learn more about the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) and visit our website. We archive all past webinars in our members only library. If you have interest in learning more about our robust webinar library or any of our products and please visit the website. •

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John Raffaele MSW, is Director of Educational Services, National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals, based in Albany, NY. Visit