Mental Health Aspects of Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities
Professional Development Series

Course for Direct Support Professionals

Next Course Begins November 2, 2021

This live, 6-session course gives Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) the knowledge, skills, and resources needed to provide individuals with IDD and mental health service needs (IDD-MH) positive, person-centered, strengths and wellness-based supports and services. The course facilitators will demonstrate how the information reviewed during session can be applied in the day-to-day support of people with IDD-MH.

Registration fee is $149 per person. Course runs weekly from Tuesday November 2 - Tuesday December 7.

Register for This Course


Session 1 (11/2/21): Foundations I: Introduction to the Course & Guiding Principles

  • Course Overview
  • Positive Psychology & other Guiding Principles (Positive Psych/Strengths-based, Family & Person-centered, Cultural & Linguistic Competency, Trauma-Informed, Biopsychosocial, Wellness-based)

Session 2 (11/9/21): Foundations II: Overview of Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities (IDD)  and Common Vulnerabilities

  • Overview of IDD & Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Core BioPsychoSocial Vulnerabilities of IDD (Executive Functioning, communication, sensory)

Session 3 (11/16/21): Foundations III: Mental Health Aspects of IDD

  • Identifying signs and symptoms related to mental health
  • Overview of the most common mental health diagnoses: Anxiety, Depression & Trauma
  • Exploring how core vulnerabilities of IDD impact mental health

Session 4 (11/23/21): Foundations IV:  Mental Health Aspects of IDD

  • Trauma
  • Emotional Regulation

Session 5 (11/30/21): Therapeutic Interventions I

  • Positive Identity Development
  • Trauma Informed Care in Action (resiliency)
  • Promoting Wellness (PERMA+)

Session 6 (12/7/21): Therapeutic Interventions II

  • Emotion Recognition & Regulation
  • Relaxation & Stress Reduction
  • Creative Expression

Who Should Participate?

  • Direct Support Professionals (both MH and IDD)
  • Functional Support Specialists (both MH and IDD)
  • Residential/AFL/home care providers & staff
  • Day habilitation & residential supervisors

Why Participate?

This course is designed to improve the supports provided to individuals who experience IDD-MH by….

  • Enhancing DSPs’ understanding of important aspects related to wellness and positive supports for people with IDD-MH
  • Equipping DSPs with practical approaches to use in their daily work
  • Increasing job satisfaction and preventing burnout
  • Providing assurance to supervisors that DSPs are adequately trained and equipped to provide quality, strengths-based supports

Participants who attend all 6 sessions of this course will receive a Center for START Services Certificate of Completion and 0.75 CEUs from the University of New Hampshire (CEUs are available for individual sessions).

Course Expectations:

It is expected that all participants will:

  • Complete a pre- and post-survey at the beginning and conclusion of the course & brief training evaluations following each session
  • Approach training opportunities with readiness and receptiveness
  • Attend all Zoom training sessions
  • Engage with course material in order to apply what is learned into daily work

Course Learning Objectives:

At the end of this course, participants will….

  • Demonstrate an understanding of IDD and the presentation of co-occurring mental health conditions
  • Demonstrate a biopsychosocial understanding of an individual’s strengths and vulnerabilities
  • Apply strengths-based therapeutic practices, interventions and skills to support individuals
  • Effectively facilitate therapeutic activities
  • Engage in positive and wellness-focused interactions with individuals, families, and colleagues

About the Facilitators:

Picture of Anne LaForceAnne LaForce, MA
CSS Director of Therapeutic Coaching

M.A., Clinical Psychology, North Carolina Central University
B.A., Psychology, Kent State University

Anne La Force is a clinical psychologist with over 20 years of experience working with adults, adolescents and children with developmental disabilities and co-occurring mental health disorders.  As a Project Manager and Director of Therapeutic Coaching, Anne provides consultation and training to START teams across the country and facilitates monthly practice groups for Therapeutic Team Leaders and Clinical Directors.  Anne has experience in practicing and training other clinicians in crisis prevention and intervention, implementation of positive psychology approaches, assessment of biopsychosocial factors and trauma informed care practices.


Melanie Hecker, MPApicture of meanie hecker wearing a blue dress with elbow length sleeves
Research and Training Associate

MPA, Policy Analytics Methods, University at Albany (SUNY)
BA, Public Policy & Management, University at Albany (SUNY)
AS, Human Services, Hudson Valley Community College

Melanie Hecker is a person with lived experience who is a lifelong disability advocate both personally and professionally. She holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University at Albany with a concentration in Policy Analytic Methods, a BA in Public Policy and Management from the University at Albany, an AS in Human Services from Hudson Valley Community College. Previously, Melanie has served as the Systems Advocate at Youth Power of Families Together in New York State, Graduate Policy Intern at the New York State Council on Children and Families, Policy Intern at Disability Rights New York, and Intern at Independent Living Center of the Hudson Valley. Independent Living Center of the Hudson Valley awarded Melanie their Beacon Leadership Award in 2019. Melanie is a lifelong resident of Albany, NY.

Top Signature Strengths: Perseverance and Loyalty