Program delivery note

Program delivery note: Fanshawe will temporarily deliver this program as listed under "locations" to the right of your screen or in the "+ more details" menu on mobile.

Developmental Services Worker (DSW) program - 2021/2022

Do you believe having a positive and direct impact on the lives of people with developmental disabilities is a career worth pursuing? Are you looking for personal and professional satisfaction on a daily basis? If so, Fanshawe's Developmental Services Worker (DSW) program will guide you toward your goals.

Using a biopsychosocial approach to complex needs, you'll become a highly skilled and reflective practitioner supporting people of all ages to live as independently as possible, while promoting inclusive communities. Your courses will be dynamic with a focus on mental and physical health, interpersonal skills, teaching and positive behaviour supports. You'll learn how to collaborate and build relationships with family members, and to work with the diverse network of professionals who support people with developmental disabilities. And with over 700 hours of field experience with community agencies and school partners, you’ll gain the first-hand experience and confidence necessary for success. You'll also have the opportunity to transfer credits for further education at universities such as Ryerson, Windsor, Calgary and Western.

High demand DSW jobs

Fanshawe DSW program graduates are in high demand. The majority of grads - if not all - find fulfilling employment within 6 months as direct support professionals, case managers/service coordinators or as educational assistants at a School Board.

Developmental Services Worker video

Photo of Tara Colwell
Tara Colwell
Graduate 2018

The DSW program gave me the perfect mix of in-class and hands-on training. And the field placements offered me the chance to connect with, and build relationships with future employers. I highly recommend taking the DSW program if you want to make a difference in this world!


Admission Requirements - 2021/2022

Admission Requirements

OSSD with courses from the College (C), University (U), University/College (M), or Open (O) stream WITH:
- Any Grade 12 English (C) or (U)
Academic and Career Entrance Certificate (ACE)
Human Services Foundation Ontario College Certificate AND:
- standing in the required course stated above
Ontario High School Equivalency Certificate (GED)
Mature Applicant with standing in the required course stated above

English Language Requirements

Applicants whose first language is not English will be required to demonstrate proficiency in English by one of the following methods:

  • A Grade 12 College Stream or University Stream English credit from an Ontario Secondary School, or equivalent, depending on the program's Admission Requirements
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) test with a minimum score of 79 for the Internet-based test (iBT), with test results within the last two years
  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Academic test with an overall score of 6.0 with no score less than 5.5 in any of the four bands, with test results within the last two years. SDS Program Requirements. 
  • Canadian Academic English Language (CAEL) test with an overall score of 60 with no score less than 50 in any of the four bands, with test results within the last two years
  • Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE) with a minimum score of 53, with test results within the last two years
  • A Cambridge English Test (FCE/CAE/CPE) with an overall score on the Cambridge English Scale of 169 with no language skill less than 162, with test results within the last two years
  • An English Language Evaluation (ELE) at Fanshawe College with a minimum score of 70% in all sections of the test, with test results within the last two years
  • Fanshawe College ESL4/GAP5 students: Minimum grade of 80% in ESL4/GAP5 Level 8, 75% in ESL4/GAP5 Level 9, or 70% in ESL4/GAP5 Level 10

Recommended Academic Preparation

  • Any Grade 12 Mathematics (C) or (U)
  • Grade 11 or Grade 12 Biology (C) or (U)
  • Grade 11 or Grade 12 Chemistry (C) or (U)
  • Grade 11 Raising Healthy Children (O)
  • Grade 11 Working with Infants and Young Children (C)
  • Grade 12 Challenge and Change in Society (U)
  • Grade 12 Families in Canada (C) or (U) 
  • Grade 12 Human Development Throughout the Lifespan (M)

Recommended Personal Preparation

  • Students should develop personal responsibility and leadership traits by participating in school and social organizations which are concerned with helping people
  • Work or volunteer experience in this field is important

Applicant Selection Criteria

Where the number of eligible applicants exceeds the available spaces in the program, the Applicant Selection Criteria will be:
  1. Preference for Permanent Residents of Ontario
  2. Receipt of Application by February 1st (After this date, Fanshawe College will consider applicants on a first-come, first-served basis until the program is full)
  3. Achievement in the Admission Requirements


  • Admission to the Fanshawe College Human Services Foundation program does not guarantee admission in a subsequent year to the Developmental Services Worker program. Successful completion of the Fanshawe College Human Services Foundation program, however, does enable the student to be given additional consideration when applying to the Developmental Services Worker program.  The Human Services Foundation program is the preferred designated preparatory program for admission to the Developmental Services Worker program.

Post-Admission Requirements

The following items are applicable to the program and are time sensitive.  Please refer to for important information about preparing for placement by the due date.

  • Possession of a Standard First Aid course certificate (either St. John Ambulance or Canadian Red Cross or equivalent) and a Basic Rescuer course certificate (Level "C" CPR)
  • Evidence of Good Health
  • Police Record Check and Vulnerable Sector Screening, including a check of the Pardoned Sexual Offenders Database
  • Placement Agreement


Developmental Services Worker-2021/2022

Level 1
Gen Ed - Take a 3 credit General Education elective course.
Take all of the following Mandatory Courses:
BSCI-1211Developmental Disabilities 23
This course describes the etiology and characteristics of various developmental disabilities and syndromes including the implications for support. Students will learn about causes of common disabilities and methods of prenatal assessment and screening.
BSCI-1010Developmental Psychology3
This course examines the field of Developmental Psychology in the context of physical, cognitive, language, social & personality development throughout the human lifespan. The major theoretical models and research related to human development will be presented. Comparisons will be made between typical and atypical development throughout the lifespan. Application of theory and knowledge to persons with developmental disabilities will illustrate the various forms of support that Developmental Services Workers can provide in order to promote development throughout the lifespan.
WRIT-1094Reason & Writing 1 for Community Studies3
This course will introduce Community Studies students to essential principles of reading, writing, and reasoning at the postsecondary level. Students will identify, summarize, analyze, and evaluate multiple short readings and write persuasive response essays to develop their vocabulary, comprehension, grammar, and critical thinking.
BSCI-1207Developmental Disabilities 13
This course provides a working knowledge of service systems for people with Developmental Disabilities in Ontario including history and its impact on current services. This course also examines marginalization and its impact on the provision of support.
PHIL-1016Philosophy of Support2
This course assists students in developing a personal philosophy of support by examining their personal and professional values within the context of labelling theory, advocacy, empowerment, stereotypes, diversity, inclusion and boundaries.
HLTH-1197Health & Wellness 13
This course introduces the student to the promotion of the health and well-being of people with a developmental disability through the study of healthy body systems and basic health promotion skills. Emphasis will be placed on the role of the DSW as a member of an inter-professional health care team.
BSCI-1208Person-Directed Plans3
This course examines the elements of person-directed planning, including the theories, values, legislation, processes, practices and tools that are used as a means of supporting people who have developmental disabilities. A variety of current person-directed planning tools will be discussed, applied, and evaluated, and comparisons will be made between person-directed planning approaches and other individual planning approaches. Students will synthesize and apply their knowledge of person-directed planning to support and empower people with disabilities to develop and achieve their dreams and goals, and to become valued citizens in their communities.
DEVL-1055Professionalism 12
This course introduces Developmental Services Worker students to values, principles and skills essential to understanding their role as a Direct Support Professional. The student will be able to describe the professional values and ethics of the Developmental Services Worker profession and its application to the field. Students will also be introduced to the importance of evidence-based practice. Students will apply the principles and standards as they learn the process of developing their own personal and professional goals in the field of developmental services.

Level 2
Take all of the following Mandatory Courses:

Group 1
BSCI-1020Augmentative Communication2
This course will introduce students to the field of communication and augmentative communication in particular. The course will help the students to comprehend, analyze, synthesize and evaluate the multiple factors associated with supporting and interacting with individuals who communicate using specialized communication techniques or devices.
BSCI-1023Teaching Strategies4
This course will examine the theories, principles, and applications of learning and teaching as a means of supporting people who have diverse abilities. Students will develop a variety of teaching plans to facilitate learning in home, educational, community, employment, and social settings.
BSCI-1027Intervention Strategies 12
This course will provide the student with a body of knowledge of current intervention strategies applied in the support of persons with developmental disabilities. Students will be able to list and use the elements of the DSW Code of Ethics with respect to behavioural approaches and adhere to pertinent legislation. Students will also be able to identify the elements of behavioural learning theory, list the behavioural rules and describe how learning theory can be implemented. Crisis intervention techniques will be learned and demonstrated by students according to industry standards. Students will learn documentation requirements related to crisis intervention.
COMM-3082Communications for Community Studies3
This course, designed for students who plan to work in the field of Community Studies, focuses on professional written and verbal communication skills. Students learn to prepare a variety of work-related documents. In addition, students learn about research methods and documentation formats. The principles of effective writing - organization, grammar, style, clarity, and tone - are reinforced throughout the course. The goal of the course is to prepare students for the communication tasks and considerations they will encounter in the Community Studies workplace in order to meet the needs of employers and/or the communities they will serve.
BSCI-1007Abnormal Psychology/Dual Diagnosis3
This course provides the Developmental Services Worker student with a working knowledge of mental health disorders focusing on the symptomatology and interventions within the context of dual diagnosis. Students will be able to describe the etiology and classification of mental health disorders and dual diagnosis as well as the factors affecting the prevalence and predisposition of dual diagnosis. Students will be able to describe the bio-psychosocial model and strategies for supporting people with a dual diagnosis.
HLTH-1198Health & Wellness 23
This course continues to explore the health and well-being of people with developmental disabilities through the study of common health conditions and diseases along with basic health care skills. Course content will be integrated with the role of the DSW as a member of an inter-professional health care team.
DEVL-3007Professionalism 22
Students will be able to use communication and counselling skills appropriate to the role of a Developmental Services Worker. Students will use traditional counselling skills with consideration for people with developmental disabilities, their families and the developmental sector including electronic, oral, written and nonverbal. Students will be introduced to and demonstrate Behavioural Based Interviews. Students will develop strategies for self-care.

Group 2
PHRM-3019Pharmacology in DSW3
This course provides the student with a basic theoretical knowledge about common prescription and non-prescription medications prescribed for persons with a developmental disability. Focus will be placed on the roles and responsibilities of a DSW as a member of an inter-professional health care team.

Group 3
BSCI-1262Observations, Records & Accountability2
This course provides the student with techniques for gathering formal and informal information, data collection, and making and recording observations. Students will learn the importance of reflecting quality care in standard documentation practices. Accountability will be incorporated throughout the course by the use of practical application examples of documentation standards and communication techniques. Students will also learn the transcriptions skills necessary for the creation and/or maintenance of Medication Administration Records (MAR).

Level 3
Take all of the following Mandatory Courses:

Group 1
BSCI-3041Intervention Strategies 22
The Developmental Services Worker student will demonstrate the knowledge to implement behavioural support plans for people with developmental disabilities. The student will demonstrate an understanding of behavior learning theory, behavioural observations, data collection and functional behavior assessments.
HLTH-3038Health & Wellness 33
This course provides the student with an opportunity to develop knowledge and practical skills in basic health care and in administration of medications appropriate to Developmental Services Work. The course will focus on the complex health needs of people with disabilities. This course will continue to explore the role and responsibilities of a DSW working within an interprofessional health care team.
FLDP-1014Field Placement 19.2
This course is designed to enable the Developmental Services Worker student to apply in a field placement the theoretical knowledge gained from the academic courses in level 1 and 2 of the Developmental Services Worker Program.
BSCI-1212Social Services2
This course will describe how to access appropriate supports for people with developmental disabilities in Ontario. Pertinent legislation and how social services are delivered including how to access services will be examined.
DEVL-3009Professionalism 32
Students will describe the importance of, and develop strategies for ongoing professional development. Students develop oral, written and job readiness skills through job search plans, mock job interviews, preparation of résumés and cover letters. Students also examine a range of career and continuing education opportunities in the field of human services.

Group 2
This course provides the Developmental Services Worker student the working knowledge to understand and deal with all forms of abuse, including abuse of people with developmental disabilities. This course provides students with greater awareness of the vulnerability of people with developmental disabilities, the applicable legislation, regulations and standards of practice.

Level 4
Take all of the following Mandatory Courses:
HLTH-3039Health & Wellness 43
This course offers the student an opportunity to integrate field practicum experiences with information which is focused on complex health needs of people with developmental disabilities. In the laboratory setting, the DSW student will continue to develop and apply pharmacology knowledge and skills within the role of a DSW. This course will continue to explore the roles and responsibilities of a DSW working within an interprofessional team.
BSCI-1214Community Building3
This course provides the student with the knowledge and skills necessary for professional interaction within the context of the Developmental Services sector. The course will examine the various roles that a Developmental Services Worker performs with individuals, families and other professionals. Past theoretical knowledge will be reviewed, discussed and applied within the context of case examples.
FLDP-3017Field Placement 212
This course is designed to enable the student to integrate previous academic and placement knowledge in a more independent setting. Special emphasis is placed on work skills at an advanced level incorporating knowledge and skills learned in all academic courses, and FLDP-1014.

Gen Ed - Elective
Take 3 General Education Credits -
Normally taken in Level 1

Program Residency
Students Must Complete a Minimum of 22 credits in this
program at Fanshawe College to meet the Program Residency
requirement and graduate from this program

Careers - 2021/2022

Career Opportunities

Graduates from this program will be employed within community-based agencies and boards of education to work with persons with developmental disabilities. Graduates are trained to provide accommodation, advocacy, education, employment and leisure support. As well, the graduates have training in life skills, counselling, advocacy, health and pharmacology.

More Information - 2021/2022

A Two-Year Ontario College Diploma Program
Program Code: DSW1
Campus Code: LC (LC - London)
September/January Admission
15 week terms
Academic Calendars available at


School of Community Studies: 519-452-4224

Program Description

The Developmental Services Worker two-year diploma program prepares its graduates to be specialists in supporting children and adults with developmental disabilities.

Inherent to the role of a DSW is an ability to collaborate and build relationships with people with developmental disabilities and their families and to work with colleagues and members of inter-professional teams to facilitate a seamless network of support for people. 

Courses focus on disabilities, person directed supports, inclusion and community resources, dual diagnosis, interpersonal skills, counselling, health, pharmacology, development, teaching and intervention strategies. Field placements in community agencies and/or schools are part of the curriculum.

Program Offered: Full-time

Other Information

  • Adult applicants who have developed emotional maturity and stability through a few years involvement in related work are encouraged to apply.  Applicants must meet the admission requirements.
  • There is a particular need for male Developmental Services Workers.
  • Field work constitutes half the training experience of this program. Students should be prepared for some additional personal costs.
  • Students on field placement are required to work evening shifts.
  • Students who graduate from this program and wish to transfer to another Community Studies program at Fanshawe College, may qualify for some internal credits that have already been achieved. 

Learning Outcomes

The graduate has reliably demonstrated the ability to

1. conduct oneself in an ethical*, competent* and accountable* manner in all professional relationships.

2. provide person-directed supports and services that respect and promote self-determination for people with developmental disabilities

3. provide for the safety of people with developmental disabilities, self and others in compliance with all applicable legislation, regulations and standards of practice*.

4. support health and well-being of people with developmental disabilities.

5. employ and adapt formal and informal strategies to support the learning of people with developmental disabilities.

6. provide leadership in the development of inclusive communities*

7. develop professional and personal plans that enhance job performance and well-being.

Program Pathways

For information about Program Pathways visit

Program Details

More details

Canadian Students

Start Dates

Full Time Offerings

2021 September
2022 January

International Students

Start Dates
2022 January
Program Code

Program Coordinator:

Karen Klee

Day Time
Ontario College Diploma
60 weeks