Program Content

What is a Direct Support Professional?

Direct Support Professional (DSP) is a title for a person who works in a community setting to support people with disabilities and older people to live in their communities. The term represents a broad range of employment options that may also be titled Personal Care Attendants, Direct Care Staff, Respite Workers or Community Support Specialists. People in any of the above mentioned positions work to support people with disabilities and older people to ensure their ability to live independently in the community. A DSP may be employed by a private community provider agency for people with intellectual disabilities, a home health agency, the family of the individual receiving services, or directly by an individual with a disability. 

First Semester

The first semester of the PATHS Certificate Program will provide both core competency and enrichment classes to students, preparing them to work as Direct Support Professionals in a wide range of community settings.

Students must successfully complete the classroom component of the program in order to be placed in a paid practicum for the second semester. Course content and competency testing will be modified based on individual learning styles and needs.

The enrichment courses offer students skill sets that exceed the minimum requirements community service providers may be able to offer. These additional skills should afford graduates broader opportunities to be employed as a Direct Support Professional.

It is important to note that the program curriculum and final course content is in development. The following is a sample of courses currently being developed:

Core Coursework:

  • What is the Role of a Direct Support Professional?
  • CPR and First Aid
  • Identifying, Reporting, and Avoiding Abuse/Neglect/Exploitation
  • Confidentiality
  • History of Disability
  • Self-determination/Disability Rights
  • Medication Management
  • Lifting/Transferring
  • Basic Computer Skills
  • Medication Management

Enrichment Courses:

  • Self-determination
  • Person-Centered Thinking
  • Person-Centered Plan Facilitation
  • Community Inclusion
  • Assistive Technology
  • Supportive and Respectful Communication
  • Supporting Friendships and Relationships
  • Positive Behavior Supports
  • Community Settings

Students will attend the first semester classroom component of the program up to 5 hours per day. Not all activity will occur in a classroom setting, and students will engage in a great deal of small group learning experiences. Further, PATHS students will be encouraged to actively participate in a service organization on the Texas A&M campus to facilitate a broader social network.

Second Semester

Students who successfully complete the first semester classroom component of the program will meet the minimum requirements to be employed by a community provider in a community setting. The paid practicum will offer students hands on training as a temporary employee in a community setting serving people with disabilities and older people. PATHS staff will provide supervision and support in partnership with the community provider to ensure the student gains critical direct skill development. At the end of the practicum, the student will receive an evaluation from PATHS staff and the community provider to determine successful completion of the practicum. Successful completion of the PATHS program will provide graduates with immediate employment opportunities from their practicum site. Additional job placement supports will also be available to graduates through a provider referral network.  


What is a Child Care Professional?

The PATHS Child Care Professional (CCP) track is available to students who have been accepted into the PATHS program who have an interest in working with children ages 0-5 in a child care program.  

This track will closely align with the six competency standards set by the CDA Council ( Upon graduation, graduates will have knowledge to begin/continue working with children ages 0-5 in the classroom setting.

The Child Care track prepares students for responsibilities: 

  • Supervise and monitor the safety of children in their care
  • Organize toys and materials to ensure a tidy activity area
  • Help children keep good hygiene
  • Change the diapers of infants and toddlers
  • Teach children to use touch screens and computers
  • Develop schedules and routines to ensure that children have enough physical activity, rest, and playtime
  • Keep records of children’s progress, routines, and interest




Page last updated: February 3, 2016 - 4:59pm