The power of peer support
Sharon Holz reflects on her peer support journey.
Many people with intellectual disability feel very isolated and influenced by their parents’ decisions. They have a lot of questions in their heads, but no one to share them with.
For many people having a safe space to be yourself is very rare. But if you come to a peer group you are in a safe space. You can say what you want to say and you feel understood.
A peer group is a place where you can develop friendships and feel valued and be a part of something.
One of the members of the Illawarra Peer Support group told us how her mother often encouraged her to join so-called ‘normal’ groups, such as the local Rotary club. But she said, “Those ‘normal’ people don’t understand me. Those ‘normal’ people ignore me and make me feel worse. When I come to the peer group, I don’t feel that way.”
What she said teaches us all an important lesson: it’s about what works for the person with disability themselves, not what works for the mother or someone else.
A lot of people have learned helplessness because of other people’s good intentions. But through your peers you gain confidence to have a go at things you wouldn’t normally think of. You don’t dwell on your disability. Instead you think, I might be able to be a public speaker and try new things.
Sometimes peer support groups are crucial lifelines for isolated people who feel that they have nothing in life. Often it’s not until a person gets into a peer group that they feel like they belong, they feel accepted and they can feel free to be who they are without judgment or recrimination.
Having Cerebral Palsy has given me many opportunities. And it has shaped me into an effective peer facilitator, because I’ve been there and I’ve lived it.
When I started to get the chance to get employment and do public speaking I felt ‘different’ in a good way.
I hope that the Illawarra peer group continues and flourishes. And I hope that other communities get a chance to benefit from peer groups.
Because peer support is so powerful.
Find out more about peer support
- Fiona and Jack talk about peer mentoring
- Peer mentors learn to be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud
- See our peer support resources