Youth Leadership

The National Youth Leadership Network is youth-led and youth-driven. We support youth voice and youth choice. We think that youth with disabilities should be the ones to decide what we as youth with disabilities need. We think contributions from youth with disabilities are important in youth-centered and multi-generational spaces. Below are some resources on how organizations and meetings can fully support youth participation. There are also resources for youth-centered organizations that actively support youth empowerment.


1. Get the Word Out (pdf) is 13 page resource by Youth On Board. It discusses ways young people are silenced by adults and offers ways to change this.

2. Youth on Board is an organization that helps young people and adults work together. They make sure young people’s ideas are respected. They have a several resources, videos, and publications about how to include youth and how youth and adults can work together. Their publications can be purchased on their website. They range in price from $6-$30.

3. The FreeChild Project works to make sure youth voice is heard in organizations, school and places of power. They have a toolkit online that covers history of youth speaking out, ways to honor voice, and ways to create safe environments for youth to practice self-determination. It is very thorough.

4. Keep It Real: Youth Leadership Development in Centers for Independent Living was a 3 day presentation led by Amber Smock, Stacey Milbern, and Julia Thomas in 2010. It was about how to work with disabled youth to develop their leadership skills. Captioned video of the training, powerpoints, and other resources can be found at the wiki site created for the training.

5. Meaningful Student Involvement is a 13 page guide created by the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory. It is a guide for students, parents, educators, and school administrators. It is about how students can be more involved in making decisions at their school.

6. Students Guide to the IEP (pdf) is a 12-page guide that teaches students how to lead their Individualized Education Plan (IEP) process. It was written by the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities.

7. Say Y.E.S. to Youth: Youth Engagement Strategies (pdf) is a very thorough, 52-page workbook that teaches organizations how to include youth in decision making roles. It was made by the Pennsylvania Children, Youth and Families Are Resilient program.

8.  Curriculum For Self Advocates (pdf) is a 54-page guide intended to help self-advocates better navigate the world of employment. It contains stories, advice and the perspectives of other self-advocates on various aspects of the employment process.  A collaborative effort between their partners: The Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Self Advocates Becoming Empowered, the Sibling Leadership Network and the National Youth Leadership Network.


This is a list of organizations across the country that use a youth-led and youth-driven model to promote the involvement and leadership of youth with disabilities.

1. Access Living Youth Programs – home of the Empowered Fefes, the DIVAs, YIELDD the Power, and other youth groups at the Center for Independent Living in Chicago.

2. Kids As Self Advocates is a youth-led national project that focuses on youth with disabilities age 12-18 years old. KASA has written over 60 guides and tipsheets on a large range of topics (advocacy, relationship, health, and more).

Yo! Youth Organizing Disabled and Proud is a network of youth with disabilities from across California.


This is a list of other programs and organizations that are youth-driven. These organizations promote youth leadership but are not specifically for youth with disabilities.

1. Detroit Summer is an organization that works in Detroit, Michigan, They are a multi-racial and inter-generational organization. They work to make their communities better. They host initiatives such as youth-led arts projects, community potlucks, and parties.

2. Young Women’s Empowerment Project is a youth-led project that focuses on harm reduction for young women working in the street economy. They’ve done a lot of writing and research on harm reduction — methods for respecting people’s choices and working with people instead of coming from an unhelpful place of judgement. A lot of information can be found at their website.

3. FIERCE is an organization the builds the leadership and power of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth of color in New York City. FIERCE works to cultivate the next generation of social justice movement leaders who are dedicated to ending all forms of oppression.

4. The National Youth Advocacy Coalition is a social justice organization that advocates for and with young people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ). They work to end discrimination against LGBTQ youth.

5. SOUL: School of Unity and Liberation is an organization that supports the development of a new generation of social justice organizers. They especially focus on people of color, young women, queer and transgender youth and low-income people. They teach young people skills on how to mobilize [gather and motivate people to act] their communities and create change.