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Creating Inclusive Program Environments for Youth with Different Abilities: A Training Manual

Young people with learning disabilities, ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, or trauma do not always disclose these conditions in program settings. Fortunately, even when facilitators lack this personal information about participants, there are ways to make programs more inclusive. Creating Inclusive Program Environments for Youth with Different Abilities aims to provide youth work professionals with information, practices, and activities that will help them promote inclusion and engagement for all young people.

The curriculum was designed in distinct sections that can be delivered as stand-alone workshops or in one day-long session. There are seven sections:

  1. Including Youth with Different Abilities: Overview of key characteristics of learning disabilities, ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, and trauma, including testimonials and additional resources.
  2. General Strategies to Create Inclusive Program Environments: Reviewing and introducing strategies like universal design for learning, group agreements, power cards, transparency, and predictability of programming.
  3. Promoting a Sense of Belonging: Exploring activities and practices that build on similarities, strengths and talents, and affirmations.
  4. Integrating Mindfulness and De-stressing Activities: Introducing mindfulness concepts and activities, and de-stressing tools and activities.
  5. Modeling and Teaching Empathy: Discussing empathy versus sympathy, practicing empathic listening, and exploring empathy-building activities and resources.
  6. Addressing Challenging Behavior: Introducing a values self-assessment and discussing general behavior management strategies.
  7. Disability Legislation, Accommodations, and Working with Community Partners: Brief overview of disability legislation, integrating accommodation questions into the registration process, and identifying community partners and resources.

Full Curriculum

Section Handouts and Presentations

Section 1 Handout and Companion Presentation

Section 2 Handouts

Section 3 Handouts

Section 4 Handouts

Section 5 Handouts

Section 6 Handouts

Section 7 Handouts and Companion Presentation


Creating Inclusive Program Environments for Youth with Different Abilities was developed by Jutta Dotterweich of the ACT for Youth Center for Community Action in collaboration with New York State 4-H Youth Development, the NYS 4-H Educator Association, and the Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) Risk and Thriving in Adolescence Program Work Team. Curriculum development was supported by an innovation grant provided by CCE Administration.