Our members who support people with disabilities in finding employment might be interested in this blog post by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), which shares numerous resources on peer provider programs. While we offer a preview of the post below, we encourage readers to go to the full blog post because it discusses many programs across disability sectors, including intellectual / developmental disabilities (I/DD).
As shared by the ACL:
“According to recent studies, peer providers are a rapidly-growing part of the workforce supporting people with disabilities and chronic conditions. Peer providers can be found in many different settings such as behavioral health and substance use disorder programs, wellness and health promotion programs, and school and university programs supporting students with disabilities. In some settings, peers provide support informally or on a volunteer basis, in other settings they may have a formal, paid position within an organization. The position may be called a peer support specialist, a recovery or wellness coach, a job coach, or similar.
Each program or service agency will have different requirements and qualifications for peer providers, but those qualifications could include: a certain level of education like a high school degree/GED or some college; self-identifying as a person with a disability, either generally or with a specific condition; and a history of work or volunteer experience. Some programs may also require certification from a recognized source, like a training program or an accrediting organization. Other programs may require new peer providers to attend a specific training program which results in certification.
Being a peer provider can be both rewarding and challenging. It can be rewarding to see your peers learn, grow, and do well in the program. It can be challenging to maintain a professional relationship and know when you are crossing the boundary between counselor and friend. Successful peer provider programs include training on managing boundaries and the stress of busy schedules and supervisors who are trained on the role of peer providers and how to support them.
Peer support is an important part of many of the programs of the Administration for Community Living (ACL). For example, peer counseling and peer support are core services of Centers for Independent Living in the US. The National Resource Center for Self-Advocacy enhances leadership skills for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities through fellowships to individuals, along with training and technical assistance to a variety of organizations. The State Councils on Developmental Disabilities (or DD Councils) also help with self-empowerment and self-advocacy through peer engagement. The National Limb Loss Resource Center and National Paralysis Resource Center both run active peer support programs for people with those types of disabilities.”