Final Results of the National "Natural Support Survey"

April 27, 2011

Purposes and methodology:

The survey was designed to acquire and share various viewpoints, attitudes, successes, and concerns regarding the controversial topic of "natural supports" for individuals with disabilities and their families/caregivers.  Additionally, it was hoped that the results would point to needed further research and studies, which the author believes it has.

In the author's view, "natural supports" has become more prominent in discussions regarding providing services for individuals with disabilities - especially in the presence of long - and perhaps never-ending - waitlists for services, particularly for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  Some have posited that "natural supports" shoud fill in the gaps, or perhaps even take the place of, paid services for individuals with disabilities.

A simple eight question survey was developed, and on April 13, 2011, emails were sent to a variety of listservs throughout the country.  Using a "viral" technique, each recipient was asked to forward the information about the survey to others, achieving input from across the country.  Follow-up emails were sent, further describing the need for the survey and encouraging completion of the survey.

As the survey responses approached 500, and the "open comments" responses were over 300, the survey responses slowed to a trickle, and summaries of the data collected were published as of April 25, 2011.  491 survey responses and 304 written open-ended comments had been posted.  Survey-Monkey-supplied-software was used to collate, record and analyze the responses.  In addition, individuals outside the development of the survey were asked to review the survey and provide their thoughts and insights.

 Differing viewpoints regarding "Natural Supports" are illustrated by two selected comments:

Most natural supports run like hell when they see you coming, avoid the phone when your on the other end, or pretend not to hear the door when you knock. Our child is a handful to say the least, they wear us out in no time at all and we are supposed to be 'used' to it. What do you think the parent who is not accustomed to it feels like? In thirty minutes they are watching the clock tick by and biting what is left of their nails off, waiting for you to get back. Paid respite is hard to find, free respite is almost unheard of. It takes a very special family member, or other 'natural support' to be there and be there often. It's a hard job, we try not to complain often, but when you cut an already short budget it makes one angry!

My son is now 20 with high functioning autism. After becoming a single parent when he was four, I had to develop a strong network of support for him. A good example of one of his natural supports now is that he had an internship last school year. When summer came, they asked him to stay on. Since he had no transportation, he asked a co-worker if he could carpool and gave her money weekly for gas. And they liked him so much they extended his job through this school year too.


Some results in a nutshell:


*The entire survey results with written responses.


*304 written responses to open-ended question 8: "Please provide comments and thoughts about any aspect of 'natural supports' you would like to share. This is an anonymous poll." (Word format)  These written responses form the heart of the survey and are worth the reading time.


*Comment emails sent to Denver Fox during the survey in addition to the survey comments above.


Selected filtered-response tables and comments (all in .pdf format):

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