Support Groups for Individuals With Disabilities, Their Families, and Caregivers

Ben Allen  | 

When life gets hard, it’s easy to feel like you are alone, and that nobody in the world understands what you are going through. People need to feel like they connect with others, and that they aren’t alone in their struggles.

Disabilities can put and added layer of stress on the people who have them. Each person has their own challenges presented by their disability, but they aren’t alone, nor should they voluntarily isolate themselves because of them. Support groups can do a lot to help those that have or are involved with disabilities, through offering unconditional support, understanding, and friendship.

The Importance of Peer Support

Everybody needs a place where they feel like they belong, where they feel comfortable sharing their problems with others. For some, that means meeting with a therapist or counselor, even one that shares a disability, but for many, they want to talk with people they view as their equals.

What is Peer Support?

When people think of peer support programs, they often imagine the stereotypical scenario of a group of people sitting in a circle in the middle of the room. While this style of support group does exist and do great things, it’s not the only form of peer support.

Peer support is any kind of program where people get help, emotional support, and a place to talk freely with others going through the same or similar scenario. Peer support groups can go do different activities together, be a group on Facebook to share their problems constantly, or a couple of friends who go and get coffee once a week. Peer support could even be just two people talking with each other, it doesn’t require a large group.

How Does Peer Support Help?

The biggest benefit from participating in peer support is having somebody listen and understand what you are going through. A major facet of depression is feeling like you have nobody who understands you, and feeling that you are all alone. Having a peer support system can give you people to talk to when times are tough. Peer support can help improve your attitude towards your situation, or provide potential solutions to problems. Just having people you know who set aside time just to talk to you can do a lot to help.

Peer Support Groups for Individuals with Disabilities

Finding the right support for you is essential. Different disabilities lead to different barriers and thus, need their own style of support group. A broad “support group for people with disabilities” likely can’t give you the individualized interaction you need.

Find a support group filled with people in similar situations as you. People with autism will likely have very different things to talk about than people who are confined to a wheelchair, so getting into the right group is essential. Work with your physicians, mental health counselors, therapists, and local health organizations to find all available peer support groups. If you can’t find any, consider starting your own. Get in touch with a disability focused non-profit or charity for help getting it set up.

Another huge benefit of being in the right peer support group is having a group of people sharing solutions and resources with each other. This can include overcoming day-to-day barriers, getting the most out of government and private programs designed to help those with disabilities, and navigating interpersonal situations.

Help finding a support group:

Mental Health Disorders and Disabilities Support Group Locator

List of Specialized Support Groups

Contact your physician or therapist for information about groups in your community, or to connect you with a local organization that has more information about support groups.

Peer Support Groups for Parents and Families of People With Disabilities

Disabilities don’t just affect those who have them, they affect everybody involved in that person’s life. Parents, siblings, spouse, children, grandparents, guardians, and more are all impacted.

Raising, caring for, and helping a person with a disability is not easy. For many, it means dedicating a large portion of their time to providing care. This constant effort can put a heavy strain on people physically, emotionally, mentally, and financially.

A support group can give people a chance to vent about their problems, solicit advice, and not feel alone. Many loved ones of those with disabilities feel like they don’t have anybody to talk or complain to without feeling judged, but a support group can fill that need.

Help Finding a Support Group:

Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health (A support and advocacy network for parents and guardians)

Well Spouse Association (Support for spouse caregivers)

It isn’t unusual for families of individuals with special needs to meet and get to know one-another through school or other routine activities. If you aren’t aware of an existing support group in your community, it may be worthwhile to use your social network of parents and families to start a new group. You don’t have to wait for an invitation — you can initiate it yourself.

Peer Support Groups for Caregivers of Individuals with Disabilities

For those whose entire career is based around caring for those with disabilities, life can get hard. Depending on the disability, caregivers might have to do everything from playing and teaching a child, to doing practically everything for them, including: feeding, bathing, and disposing of bodily waste.

At times, this kind of job might not feel very rewarding, and many can’t relate to what goes into caring for another human being constantly. A support group can give caregivers that opportunity to complain and ask for advice from others in a similar situation.

Caregivers needing support doesn’t just apply for full time caregivers, but also those who work in schools with students with disabilities or similar situations.

Help Finding a Caregiver Support Group:

Caregiver Action Network

Joining a Support Group Helps

It might feel embarrassing, or like you are failing if you join a support group; but you aren’t. It’s a healthy choice, and there is nothing weak or wrong in admitting you need somebody to talk to. By joining a support group, you can help prevent depression (or similar mental illnesses), and get the support you need.


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Ben Allen is a freelance content creator and digital marketer who believes in helping small businesses succeed. He spends his free time bragging about his two daughters, eating stuffed crust pizza, and playing video games.

This post was updated October 16, 2018. It was originally published May 16, 2018.