The Importance of Peer Counseling One of the most viable benefits of Independent Living Services is contact with people who have had a similar experience. There is first a feeling of relief – “I am not the only person experiencing this”. For people new to PACE often a sense of community begins. The consumer has a place to find answers and share ideas -with people who ” get it”. The subtleties of knowing through experience are present in identifying needs and coming up with solutions. Details are not lost to the listeners, they know what is meant. It is like coming home.
Peer Counseling Registry PACE keeps a registry that contains the names of people who have disabilities who have offered to be a peer to others who may benefit from their experience. The volunteers are asked what areas they are knowledgeable in and their names are kept on hand for when a person who needs that information requests a peer.
Peer Counselor Training is offered to those volunteers who want to invest the time necessary to sharpen their communication skills and increase their effectiveness.
PACE Peer Groups
Low Vision Peer Support Groups
focusing on the issues and solutions of vision loss
East Central IL Low Vision Support Group
meets the 1st Wed. of each month at PACE from 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm
Piatt County Low Vision Support Group
meets the 1st Tues. of each month in Monticello from 1:30 pm – 3:00 pm
Prairie Village (in Rantoul) Low Vision Support Group
meets the 3rd Fri. of each month from 1:00 – 2:00 pm (community members are welcome)
VIPIO Low Vision Support Group
meets the 4th Mon. of each month at Danville Public Library from 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Edgar County Low Vision Support Group
meets the 4th Wed. in Feb., May, Aug. and Nov. at Paris Carnegie Public Library from 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm
Douglas County Low Vision Support Group
meets the 3rd Wed. in March, June, Sept. and Dec. at Jarman Center in Tuscola from 1:00 pm – -2:00 pm
Windsor of Savoy Group
meets the 4th Friday of the month, 10:30 am- 11:30 am in the Windsor Court Activity Room
Deaf Advisory Committee Workshops Deaf Volunteers choose subjects for interpreted workshops for deaf and hard of hearing members of the community and provide those workshops. Information doesn’t always flow freely when interpreters are not provided as they should be by all organizations. This is a way for participants to learn about subjects such as Warning Signs of Heart Attacks, How to know if threatening storms or tornados are on the way, What to do if your car is stopped by the police, Disability Laws and the protection they provide and so on.
Deaf Seniors Group Deaf Seniors requested this group in order to socialize and be with individuals who are deaf and of a similar age. The group meets the first Tuesday of the Month. Location may vary with type of activities. To confirm times and locations please contact Jherilyn Hutton, Coordinator of Independent Living and Deaf Services by phone at (217) 689-0289 or email.
Life Skills Group In Opportunities for Independence members support each other acquiring new skills. The group members learn from each other as well as the Facilitator. One topic has been Bullying and how to deal with it.
Advisory Groups Advisories for Personal Assistant Program, Reintegration , Opportunities for Independence, and Diversity also have an element of peer support since they are actually the people we serve getting together to advise PACE on what we can provide that is most beneficial and how to provide it.
Individual Peer Counseling
A non disabled counselor was assisting a person who uses a wheelchair set up a plan for increasing their independence. One by one goals were met and when they came to a goal for getting outside their home to a nearby shopping area the progress stopped. The counselor was puzzled because it appeared to her the person just needed to get out and go – just practice until they were comfortable. The consumer would agree in their meeting and then come back the next week without having tried. “I’m just not comfortable out there, it scares me.” The counselor thought maybe crossing the street practice with a peer would help.
The peer sat in the next meeting. When the consumer spoke of their fear the peer said “Do you have tip backs on your chair?” I don’t know said the consumer as they looked down at their chair. What are they?” said the non peer counselor. The peer looked at the lower back of the chair behind the consumer and there were none. The peer counselor explained they had been afraid to go out and about too. They always felt like they were going to flip back in their chair while going down a curb cut or drive way and get hurt or fall in traffic. The peer had tip backs put on their chair for that reason. They are little bars that come out the back of the chair just above the ground so if you start to tip back they stop you. You could see the relief on the consumers face when they realized someone knew where the fear was coming from, you could see the moment they connected on the consumers face. The consumer got some tip backs and became confident to go out to the nearby shopping independently.
The Importance Of Service Providers Including Peers With Disabilities In Their Assistance To People Who Have Disabilities
The life experience a person gains by having a disability creates valuable knowledge that can be shared with others who are experiencing the same disability related issues. The expertise developed by going through systems, seeking medical treatment, handling interpersonal relationships and developing methods to live independently is valuable education. Professionals should recognize how important this can be when a disability is involved. PACE acknowledges the value of peer support and encourages other service providers to respect and encourage people who have disabilities to seek out people who have gone through similar experiences in an assertive and rational manner. The question for a professional is… “Do you want what you have to offer the consumer to be complete?”