A Beautiful Story: A Dream Realized through the Power of Natural Supports and Faith in Oneself

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Anona K. Napoleon
Cindi Sherman


postsecondary education, natural supports, transition to employment


At a very young age, Shirley Doneza was diagnosed with developmental delay and a learning disability.  Her parents, Ed and Martha, recall the obstetrician telling them in the vaguest of terms: “Something is wrong with her.”  However, Ed and Martha knew the person that Shirley was becoming and never doubted her potential to work hard and realize whatever dreams she might hold dear.  With their faith and support, Shirley passed through the grade levels in school apace with her peers and ultimately graduated from college with a degree as an Educational Assistant.  Today, she has achieved a high quality of life with a competitive, and exceptionally gratifying, employment and a high quality of life.  Her story is a model of the power of natural supports—defined as the people surrounding a person, not as professionals but as personal associations, i.e., family and friends who believe in the person (Stodden & Leake, 1994) —to impart self-confidence and self-efficacy, and the success that that belief can bring.

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Stodden, S. A., & Leake, D. W. (1994). Getting to the core of transition: A re-assessment of old wine in new bottles. Career development for exceptional individuals, 17(1), 65-76.