The Power of Family Support

A Key to Success for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities in Their Careers


According to Ohio Employment, research shows that over 58 percent of caregivers/ parents spend more than 40 hours per week providing support to their loved ones with developmental disabilities beyond typical care. While family members are key to success for individuals with developmental disabilities, ultimately, it is up to the individual to want success.

What is success and why is it important?

Success is the accomplishing aim or purpose. However, success can look very different to many people. Success can range to achieving small steps that can reach a person’s goal to having a lot of wealth and a higher status.

According to Researchers from The Frostig Center, there was a survey conducted to what people considered attributes to success. From the results, there were six attributes recorded: self-awareness, proactivity, perseverance, goal setting, using support strategies and emotional coping strategies. These attributes do not guarantee success but increase the chances of being able to achieve a successful life.

Additionally, The Frostig Center mentions that these six attributes come with factors contributing to the individual’s success: personal characteristics, attitudes and behaviors. With these factors, the individual can develop positivity, confidence and acknowledge both strengths and weaknesses towards their skills.

What success can look like to individuals with developmental disabilities


Most individuals with developmental disabilities can recognize their disabilities by visually witnessing their difficulties and talents. When an individual becomes successful, they can distinguish their strengths and weaknesses by finding jobs that provide opportunities for their strengths. Families can help individuals by providing options and creating healthy habits that could potentially grow to career paths.


Families can get an individual to engage in the world around them, whether that is stepping into leadership roles or participating in activities within the community. Having the individual actively be involved in settings with other people can help show them what they like or dislike. Ultimately, successful individuals make those decisions on his/her own.


If the individual finds that what they are involved in doesn’t work out, reminding them that there are other opportunities in the field they are interested in could push them to thrive somewhere else. Knowing when to quit is an important ability when demonstrating success for the individual. Not quitting altogether, but rather finding alternative ways to tweaking a goal to better achieve it. This helps move the individual forward instead of backwards by giving them the motivation to do something else.

Goal setting

Making sure goals are realistic and flexible. Families can help by giving small achievable goals that help reach the bigger “end” goal. Just make sure the goals include strategies and alternatives. Setting unrealistic goals weakens the abilities of individuals with developmental disabilities and can force them to give up on a life they could potentially have for themselves.

Using support strategies

Whether that is a family member, teacher, therapist or a friend, there should always be someone to help coach and lead the individual towards their goals. However, successful individuals with developmental disabilities remind themselves how to have self-dependency because only they can reach the goal that they are striving to achieve.

Emotional coping strategies

Families should recognize and be aware of the individual when he/she is struggling to stay motivated in their life. Being available and present are key factors to reminding them that they have support no matter the outcome. However, the individual should recognize patterns of coping techniques to help with stress, anxiety or depression. Resources should be available to the individual who may be struggling with mental health.

Why should family support matter?

Although families cannot actively participate in the individual’s life, they can still be a tremendous factor in helping the individual become the person they desire to become. Most individuals with developmental disabilities lean on their families for support and according to Ohio Employment, research shows that 65 percent of individuals with developmental disabilities go onto living with their family pass the age of eighteen.

Research also shows that people with developmental disabilities and their families recognize that support is most effective when provided to the family. This way, they can have the capacity and knowledge to help. When the family has resources that can help support the individual, it can also give the family space to help the best way they can for that person. Having family support not only motivates the individual but allows them to freely express themselves in this world. Developmental disabilities should never get in the way of someone who wants to be successful, whether that is finding a career that they love or living a stress-free life.