• Text Resize A A A
  • Print Print
  • Share Share Share Share

Innovations in Supporting Youth with Disabilities

A medical home is a regular source of family-centered, comprehensive, and culturally informed primary care. This model facilitates partnerships between patients, their health care providers, and, when appropriate, the patient’s family in a health care setting. Evidence suggests the medical home model can lead to improved health outcomes for children with special health care needs.1

TAG In Action

Health care centers in schools

TAG in Action: Health Centers in Schools is an innovative, integrated program aimed at improving student health.

One promising model for adolescent health care that also may be appropriate for many adolescents with disabilities is school-based health centers. These centers are becoming increasingly common and have been found to increase access to care, and improve mental health, resilience, and use of contraceptives. Another innovative practice is represented by clinics, such as the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, that integrate health and mental health care and social services at one accessible location.

There are roles at multiple levels—the young person, his or her family, the health system, and the community—to promote the resilience of adolescents with disabilities.2 Like all individuals, this group deserves to be defined and judged not by what they lack, but by their strengths. An inclusive society provides appropriate accommodations and supports for people of differing abilities. When adolescents with disabilities are treated with respect, and their contributions are valued, all of society benefits. For example, curb cuts make getting around easier for everyone—not just those with disabilities.

Adolescents with disabilities, like all adolescents, thrive when they can exercise self-efficacy—opportunities for taking action and overcoming obstacles.3 The path to successful independence is seldom linear for young people—especially for young people with disabilities. However, recognizing the gifts and potential in all individuals encourages self-sufficiency and autonomy. It also promotes positive youth development, regardless of one’s circumstances.4


1 Homer, C. J., Klatka, K., Romm, D., Kuhlthau, K., Bloom, S., Newacheck, P., Van Cleave, J., & Perrin, J. M. (2008). A review of the evidence for the medical home for children with special health care needs. Pediatrics, 122(4), e922-e937.
2 Halfon, N., Houtrow, A., Larson, K., & Newachek, P. W. (2012). The changing landscape of disability in childhood. Future of Children, 22(1), 13-42.
3 Lippman, L. H., Ryberg, R., Terzian, M., Moore, K. A., Humble, J., & McIntosh, H. (2014). Positive and protective factors in adolescent well-being. In A. Ben-Arieh et al. (eds.), Handbook of Child Well-Being, pp. 2823-2866. NY: Springer.
4 United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). (2013). The state of the world’s children, 2013. Children with disabilities. NY: Author. Retrieved August 3, 2017, from https://www.unicef.org/sowc2013/
Content created by Office of Adolescent Health
Content last reviewed on August 23, 2017