Service-learning and students with severe disabilities: Examining participation and curricular goals

Michelle L. Bonati, Stacy K Dymond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of this case study was to examine how students with severe disabilities participated in service-learning at a food pantry and the curricular goals they addressed. Service-learning is a form of experiential learning that blends classroom instruction with community service. Participants included 3 high school students with severe disabilities enrolled in a private faithbased school, 5 school staff, and the food pantry coordinator. Data were collected over a 6-month period from observations, interviews, and a focus group. Findings indicate students partially participated in service-learning with supports using a strengths-based approach. Barriers to participation included unclear paraprofessionals' roles, uncertain project priorities, and insufficient supports for communication and behavior. Curricular goals addressed emphasized Jewish values and functional skills. An extension of Furco's service-learning theoretical model is proposed to conceptualize service-learning as being situated along a continuum from supported volunteering to vocational training.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)42-55
Number of pages14
JournalIntellectual and developmental disabilities
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019


  • Curriculum participation
  • High school
  • Service-learning
  • Severe disabilities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Community and Home Care
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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