Health & Exercise

Turnstone Launches International Self-Advocacy Initiative

Turnstone Center will launch the first phase of its “Empowering Minds and Bodies Program” with support from the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation. The initiative will support self-advocacy to enhance educational attainment and reduce health disparities for students with disabilities, primarily between the ages of 5 and 18.

The goal is to develop a curriculum focused on self-advocacy in education. The curriculum will empower students and their families to reimagine and realize their educational and career ambitions by taking a whole-person, whole-family approach, embodied by the Aspen Institute’s 2Gen Approach. Participants, including students with disabilities and their caregivers, will build knowledge and skills to advocate for educational rights effectively.

“This will provide students with disabilities and their families with a framework that complements existing resources to increase their aspirations for educational attainment,” said Luke Morgan, Chief Operating Officer. “By providing training for self-advocacy within the educational system, we aim to improve educational success, increasing the probability of improved health outcomes.”

Navigating the United States’ education system can be overwhelming for anyone. When factoring in the additional complexity of having a disability, only 18% of the United States population self-identified as having a disability and reported having a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to the U.S. Census American Community Survey. This percentage is significantly less than the 36% of people who reported not having a disability.

Education attainment is a significant predictor of health outcomes. According to Healthy People 2030, “People with higher levels of education are more likely to be healthier and live longer.” It further states that children with disabilities are “…more likely to struggle with math and reading. They are also less likely to graduate from high school or go to college. This means they are less likely to get safe, high-paying jobs and more likely to have health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and depression.”

The “Empowering Minds and Bodies Program” is being created through expertise provided by the Crann Centre in Cork, Ireland.

“We’re excited to work with the Crann Centre on this initiative,” said Rena Shown, Turnstone Chief of Development & Strategic Partnerships. “Adding a global perspective to the 2Gen approach of supporting the family unit will only enhance the educational and self-advocacy outcomes for people with disabilities in our own communities and beyond.”

Padraig Mallon, Chief Executive Crann, said, “The team here at the Crann are excited to work with the Turnstone team on this project which would help mitigate against the educational disadvantages children and adult learners (and their families) experience daily. Turnstone and Crann are both committed to a 2Gen approach, offering a suite of programs intentionally designed to support children and adults with disabilities and their families simultaneously. We believe learners with disabilities are absolutely entitled to set and achieve educational goals and have confidence that they can be achieved. This project will equip them with self-advocacy skills and tools to ensure that the system supports them in achieving their education and career goals.”

Founded in 1943, Turnstone’s mission is to empower people with disabilities to achieve their highest potential by providing one of the most comprehensive offerings of services and programs to people with disabilities and their families under one roof in the United States. Thanks to generous support and compassionate staff, Turnstone’s legacy of advocacy and innovation continues to contribute to a world that accepts and values people based on their abilities.

Turnstone’s scope of impact has evolved to include being a member of the United States Olympic family as one of nine United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee’s designated Training Sites and home to USA Goalball through a partnership with the United States Association of Blind Athletes.

Crann is a pioneering Irish charity which provides life-long, life-changing solutions for children, adults and families living with neuro-physical disabilities including Spina Bifida, Hydrocephalus, Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, Osteogenesis Imperfecta, Arthrogryposis, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Spinal Cord Injury, Stroke and Multiple Sclerosis. For more information visit

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