Natural Supports

The goal of the Pathways to Independence Natural Supports project was to discover and disseminate creative and promising approaches for supporting youth with disabilities to participate more fully and naturally in their communities. Most middle and high schools are full of opportunities for youth to develop supportive relationships with their peers, explore their strengths and interests, learn important life skills, and make valuable connections. Too often, however, participation by youth with disabilities in work experiences, classes, extracurricular clubs, youth groups, and other opportunities that comprise everyday school life is restricted to “special” programs that depend wholly on the presence and support of teachers, paraprofessionals, job coaches, or other paid supports.  However, schools and communities increasingly are discovering that it often doesn’t require special services and paid supports to meaningfully include youth with disabilities.  Classmates, peers, co-workers, and other individuals can readily be drawn upon to more naturally support the inclusion of youth with disabilities. Typically, these individuals just need some basic information and a little guidance to effectively support youth with disabilities in existing opportunities. This project, funded by the Wisconsin Medicaid Infrastructure Grant through the Department of Health and Family Services Office of Independence and Employment and implemented through the Waisman Center from 2007-2010, was designed to draw out the very best ideas and approaches for enhancing the full participation of youth with disabilities.

The work from this project has helped inform other projects, including the Let’s Get to Work grant and the WI Promise grant.

Youth Transition Products under the Product tab.

For more information, contact:
Erik Carter
Professor, Dept. of Special Education, Vanderbilt University


Molly Cooney

Products developed by this project:

Promoting Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships Through Peer Support Interventions

Friendship Matters: Fostering Social Relationships in Secondary Schools

CORE of a Good Life: Guided Conversations with Parents on Raising Young Children with Disabilities