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Family and Disability:  Charting Your Life Course Toward Empowerment, Self-Determination and Inclusion, presented by Michelle “Sheli” Reynolds, Ph.D., Director of Individual Advocacy and Family Support

Description: For individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, family plays a central role in promoting inclusion –at school, at work, and in the community, across the entire lifespan. The role of family is especially relevant as more and more individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities continue to live with a family member and the extent to which services for this population are home-based. Part of this shift comes from budget deficits along with the recognition that many services required for a “good life” are not reimbursable by Medicaid or other insurance. In this workshop, Sheli Reynolds, Ph.D. will describe current services and supports within the historical context of the disability service system. She will introduce and apply a life course framework for working with individuals and families, with sensitivity towards significant shifts in changing needs and tasks at distinct stages across the life cycle. Drawing from real life examples, she will illustrate strategies to support individuals throughout their life course trajectory in achieving a “good life.”

MichSheli Reynoldselle “Sheli” Reynolds, Ph.D., Director of Individual Advocacy and Family Support. The impetus for Dr. Reynold’s passion, knowledge and experience came from growing up as a sibling of a younger brother with developmental disabilities. She earned a doctorate in Public Administration and Sociology with a focus on family support research and policy for families of individuals with developmental disabilities across the lifespan. For the last 16 years, she has served as Director of Individual Advocacy and Family Support at UMKC Institute for Human Development, a University Center on Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. She directs projects that impact the lives of self-advocates and their families through policy and practice changes, and provides technical assistance to the self-advocacy organizations. She is also working under a grant from the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AIDD) to develop a five state Community of Practice on policies and systems changes that promotes Supporting Families throughout the Life Course. A driving belief embedded in this work is that: People with disabilities and their families have the right to live, love, work, play and pursue their life aspirations just as other citizens do in their community.


  • Gain an understanding of the history of the disability service system and its effect on the current services and supports available.
  • Highlight the significant role families play in their members with disabilities lives across the lifespan
  • Introduce the life course framework as a foundation for working with individuals with disabilities and their families
  • Provide “real life” examples and strategies that can be used to impact the trajectory towards a “good life”

UNC Chapel Hill – Family Focus and Disability Lecture Series Programs 

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