Defining social inclusion of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities: An ecological model of social networks and community participation

Stacy Clifford Simplican, Geraldine Leader, John Kosciulek, Michael Leahy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Social inclusion is an important goal for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, families, service providers, and policymakers; however, the concept of social inclusion remains unclear, largely due to multiple and conflicting definitions in research and policy. We define social inclusion as the interaction between two major life domains: interpersonal relationships and community participation. We then propose an ecological model of social inclusion that includes individual, interpersonal, organizational, community, and socio-political factors. We identify four areas of research that our ecological model of social inclusion can move forward: (1) organizational implementation of social inclusion; (2) social inclusion of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities living with their families, (3) social inclusion of people along a broader spectrum of disability, and (4) the potential role of self-advocacy organizations in promoting social inclusion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-29
Number of pages12
JournalResearch in Developmental Disabilities
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015
Externally publishedYes



  • Community participation
  • Developmental disabilities
  • Ecological model
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Social inclusion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology

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