A Peer Support Specialist is an individual with lived experience that empowers others. They typically help people with mental health, developmental, intellectual, neurological, psychological, and substance use disorders to have a fulfilling self-direction in their lives.
It is important for a disabled Peer Support Specialists to work with disabled youth and perhaps with a specific disability. Not only youth benefit from having a Peer Support Specialist, but families and caregivers also benefit because it helps them to let go and trust the Peer Specialist and promotes decision-making by youth with disabilities. Most people can benefit from having peer support. Sometimes those who have received peer support go on to become Peer Support Specialists, themselves. I encourage everybody to be open to this type of experience and support.
Some things Peer Support Specialists do:
- Talk about social situations with the individual
- attend community functions for outreach
- serve as an ally and confidant
- serve as a truth teller
- be a friend
- community organizer
Some benefits of having a Peer Support Specialist:
- Feel Confident
- Believe in yourself
- Be a doer
- Move forward past fears
- Work on your life and challenge yourself
- Have support and someone who builds your self-esteem
- Defining your values and authenticity
- Create a life plan
- Take responsibility in your life
- Work toward your dream
- Help with feelings/self-doubt
- Build Bridges
As a youth, I did not have a Peer Support Specialist. I think if I did, it would have made for a more successful transition to adulthood. Youth with disabilities often need help in appreciating their own worth and accepting themselves. Peer Support Specialists help with that. They also help us to learn responsibility, respect, and how to have fun at the same time.
I have had experiences with two peer mentor advocates: Temple Grandin and Stephen Shore. They mentored me through texting and talking on the telephone. My own peer mentor from years ago helped me to discover that I am an artist who makes abstract paintings and a filmmaker as well.
Today, I am a Peer Support Specialist and help disabled youth who are transitioning to adulthood. As a Peer Support Specialist, I help individuals with disabilities that need support to follow their dreams, find their talent, make decisions, and become their own authentic selves. Peer support encourages you to define your own self and find your own inspiration from within yourself.