International Review of Research in Developmental Disabilities, Volume 54 - Chapter 6: Reconceptualizing Natural Supports for People with Disabilities and Their Families

Elsevier, International Review of Research in Developmental Disabilities, Volume 54, 2018, Pages 177-209
Michelle C.Reynolds, Susan B.Palmer, George S.Gotto

People with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) use natural supports and sometimes receive paid or formal supports in addition to the support families provide. Yet, most of the emphasis of funding and research in our field is on eligibility-specific supports for people with IDD with tangential acknowledgement of families. This chapter proposes that to best support people with disabilities and their families, supports should be a logical and efficient integration of all available supports, as opposed to a dichotomy of only two options – paid (eligibility-specific supports) and natural. We explore the historical and theoretical status of integrated supports, especially focusing on the expanded emphasis on natural supports that has evolved within the paradigm of the Charting the LifeCourse framework (Reynolds, St. John, & Gotto, 2012). This framework addresses self- and family-identified strengths and needs for individuals with IDD and their families. It recognizes that individuals with IDD and their families are rooted in social relationships and bureaucratic systems that influence the trajectory of individuals and their families. We suggest that formal supports can enhance natural or informal supports by (a) recognizing and enhancing a person's capacities, (b) strengthening and connecting social networks, (c) leveraging resources within environments accessed by all citizens, and (d) utilizing technological innovations so people with IDD can achieve their preferred quality of life.