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The Team at ALSO

February 27, 2024

How Can I Support a Family Member or Friend with a Disability?

It wouldn’t be surprising if you were a friend or family member of someone with a disability. About 1 in 6 children and teenagers are living with a developmental delay, disorder, or disability. [1] Furthermore, if you consider the 61 million American adults who have disabilities that impact major life activities, that’s a huge part of the population! [2]

The meaningful question we often ask ourselves is this: “If I have a friend, loved one, coworker, or family member with a disability, what’s the best way to be supportive?”

The team at ALSO is happy to provide expert advice on this topic. Check out these 6 best strategies on how to support someone with a disability.

Top 6 Ways to Support a Family Member or Friend with a Disability

1. Stay Informed

Take time to learn about the condition(s) your friend or family member might have. Excellent online resources include:

If you’re a friend or coworker, a great resource would be family caregivers. They typically have great knowledge about how their loved one functions day-to-day, as well as any related disorders they might have (such as a mental health problem).

2. Be Respectful

The wise advice of, ‘treat others the way you would like to be treated,’ is the perfect way to establish rapport. People with disabilities don’t want to be spoken to in a condescending manner, nor to be stared at. It’s always extremely important to respect their autonomy and ability to make decisions for themselves.

For the most part, individuals with disabilities view their mobility aids, such as wheelchairs, as extensions of themselves. Additionally, you might not know how to handle their equipment. Therefore, don’t touch a mobility aid or other adaptive equipment without asking first. [6]

3. Avoid Making Assumptions

In our desire to provide the best possible support, we sometimes forget that our loved ones are people first, with the right to make independent decisions regarding minor as well as major support. This includes issues like what someone would like for dinner—maybe they hate vegetables, just like you. Individuals with disabilities also have the right to make their own health care decisions. This right has been secured through the Americans with Disabilities Act. [7]

4. Take Care of Yourself

Caregiving responsibilities, although very rewarding, can also be extremely tiring. Particularly if you’re a close friend, or primary caregiver, it’s easy to get overly fatigued and overwhelmed.  This can be detrimental to your mental and physical health, as well as those you are supporting. Research has found that unpaid caregivers report subjective cognitive decline (SCD), which is described as increased memory loss and confusion. [8]

The role of caregiving is extremely important, and you can’t do it if you are in poor health. The CDC advises[9] both unpaid and paid caregivers to make positive lifestyle choices, including:

  • Being physically active
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Eating healthy meals

5. Be Empowering

It’s extremely helpful to celebrate appropriate achievements [10] and milestones, as long as you’re sincere, and the success is well-founded. Focus more on what the person can do, rather than their limitations. Be quick to offer emotional support and reasonable solutions when your friend is experiencing disappointments or makes mistakes.

6. Reach Out for Help

No matter how competent someone is, it’s always okay to reach out for help. Letting others know that you need assistance, or some kind of supportive services is actually a strength. In Oregon, you can learn about several local resources from their Department of Human Services: [11]

  • Social Security and other disability benefits
  • Financial help for prescriptions
  • Caregiver training

For help in dealing with the stress and anxiety that may occur with providing support, consider the following;

  • Individual counseling from a mental health professional
  • Support groups
  • Respite services (short-term care on a limited basis to provide a break for caregivers)

When to Find a Disability Support Services Provider

Despite every effort, it might be more beneficial for your loved one to receive more extensive services. Examples are:

  • A physical disability that you can no longer accommodate because your loved one is getting older or heavier
  • Recommendations from social services or health care professionals
  • Physical illness and/or mental health issues arise in caregivers (or those they support)

At ALSO, we recognize such decisions as a strength. It means you’re willing to find the best possible option for the success of your loved one. We are proud to be available to help with questions and concerns.

How ALSO Supports Those with Disabilities

The ALSO Mission is to promote the full inclusion of people experiencing disabilities in the life of their community. To do this, we offer superior-quality support services to help your loved one thrive. We meet those with intellectual or developmental disabilities where they are and move forward from there.

Available services include:

Contact us anytime to get started!


  1. Cogswell ME, Coil E, Tian LH, et al. Health Needs and Use of Services Among Children with Developmental Disabilities — United States, 2014–2018. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2022;71:453–458. DOI:
  2. Okoro CA, Hollis ND, Cyrus AC, Griffin-Blake S.  Prevalence of Disabilities and Health Care Access by Disability Status and Type Among Adults — United States, 2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2018; 67 (32):882–887. Available at
  3. National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research. [NIDILRR] [Web Page].
  4. National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities [NCBDDD] [Web Page]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC].
  5. World Health Organization [WHO]. Fact Sheet on Disability.
  6. Krishna, K. 5 ways you can support the differently-abled. [2022, December 2]
  7. (Author). Patient satisfaction an ADA impact. Safe N’ Clear. (2023, July 10).,the%20basis%20of%20their%20disability.
  8. Jeffers EM, Bouldin ED, McGuire LC, et al. Prevalence and Characteristics of Subjective Cognitive Decline Among Unpaid Caregivers Aged ≥45 Years — 22 States, 2015–2019. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2021;70:1591–1596. DOI:
  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]. Memory loss among caregivers. (2023, June 29).
  10. National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities [NCBDDD] [Web Page]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC].
  11. State of Oregon. Aging and Disability Services. (n.d.),with%20someone%20about%20your%20needs.&text=You%20can%20also%20contact%20the,is%20855%2D673%2D2372.

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