Developmental Services Worker

The Developmental Service Worker is a two-year Ontario college diploma program for students interested in having a direct impact on the lives of people with developmental disabilities. You will become a highly skilled practitioner able to deliver person-directed support through courses that promote mental and physical health, develop interpersonal and interprofessional skills and foster independence and positive behaviour supports. New graduates are employed as direct supports professionals or educational assistants.


If you believe that having a positive and direct impact on the lives of people with developmental disabilities is a career worth pursuing, then the Developmental Services Worker (DSW) program is designed for you.

Students will become highly skilled and reflective practitioners while 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. 

With nearly 700 hours of field experience with community agencies and school partners, you’ll gain the first-hand experience and confidence necessary for success as a developmental support worker

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.

Program Overview

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. Students on field placement are required to work evening shifts. Personal cost will incur in preparation for field work. 

Graduates from this program wanting to transfer to another Community Studies program at Fanshawe College, may qualify for some internal credits that have already been achieved. 


Career Information

Graduates of Fanshawe’s Development Services Worker program will be employed within community-based agencies and board of education to support persons with developmental disabilities by promoting life skills, education, employment and leisure support. Graduates are also trained in counselling, advocacy, health and pharmacology.

Did you know Fanshawe consistently ranks high in graduation employment rates among large colleges in Ontario? 

Here are some examples of career opportunities for graduates of Fanshawe’s Development Services Worker program:

Developmental Service Worker
Provide a high quality of service and support to people with developmental disabilities by striving to promote and facilitate community inclusion, meaningful participation and full citizenship.

Service Navigator

Work with individuals, their families and community agencies to address the needs of adults living with a developmental disability and/or seeking developmental services to address a diagnosis.


Photo of Tara Colwell

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!

Tara Colwell
Graduate 2018
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 Availability

Canadian Students

Start Dates

Full Time Offerings

2022 September
2023 January

International Students

Start Dates

Full Time Offerings

2023 January
Toronto Campus
2023 May
Toronto Campus

Program Details

Program Code

Program Coordinator:

Karen Klee

Day Time
Ontario College Diploma
60 weeks

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

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

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

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

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

Post-Admission Requirements

See Post-Admission Requirements

Tuition Summary


Canadian Costs
Total Cost of Program
International Costs
Total Cost of Program

*Total program costs are approximate, subject to change and do not include the health and dental plan fee, bus pass fee or program general expenses.



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.
View all courses