Disability Inclusion in 4-H: Aligned with the Mission, Stopped Short by Methods


  • Jennifer J. Taylor-Winney Western Oregon University
  • Leanne S. Giordono Oregon State University
  • Marilyn K. Lesmeister Oregon State University
  • Meghann L. Fenn Oregon State University
  • Gloria Krahn Oregon State University




disability inclusion, 4-H, out-of-school, theory of planned behavior, staff


Quality out-of-school programs can significantly improve youth development outcomes. Youth with disabilities and special health care needs, who represent 19% of all youth, are less likely than their typically developing peers to participate in out-of-school activities. This qualitative study explored factors that influence the inclusion of youth with disabilities in one state’s 4-H program. Factors that facilitated inclusion were personal attitudes and subjective norms, but lack of knowledge and limited resources led to reactive problem solving rather than proactive, organizational planning. By identifying both the factors that facilitate inclusion and those that prevent it or are perceived as barriers, youth development professionals can target areas of focus to improve inclusion of youth with disabilities in 4-H and potentially other youth development programs.

Author Biographies

Jennifer J. Taylor-Winney, Western Oregon University

Jennifer Taylor-Winney Ph.D

Assistant Professor

Division of Health and Exercise Science

Western Oregon University

Leanne S. Giordono, Oregon State University

Doctoral Candidate

School of Public Policy

Marilyn K. Lesmeister, Oregon State University

Associate Professor

Extension 4-H Youth Development

College of Social and Behavioral Health Sciences

Meghann L. Fenn, Oregon State University

Doctoral Candidate

College of Public Health and Human Sciences

Gloria Krahn, Oregon State University

Barbara Emily Knudson Endowed Chair in Family Policy Studies

College of Public Health and Human Sciences


Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, Pub. L. No. 101-336, 104 Stat. 328 (1990).

Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Processes, 50, 179-211.

Anaby, D., Hand, C., Bradley, L., DiRezze, B., Forhan, M., DiGiacomo, A., & Law, M. (2013). The effect of the environment on participation of children and youth with disabilities: A scoping review. Disability and Rehabilitation, 35(19), 1589-1598.

Apsler, R. (2009). After-school programs for adolescents: A review of evaluation research. Adolescence, 44, 1-19.

Arnold, M. E., & Silliman, B. (2017). From theory to practice: A critical review of positive youth development program frameworks, Journal of Youth Development, 12(2), 1-20. doi: 10.595/jyd.2017.17

Boone, D. A., Boone, Jr., H. N., Reed, C., Woloshuk, J. M., & Gartin, S. A. (2006). Attitudes of Extension professionals toward involvement of special needs youth in 4-H programs. Journal of Extension, 44(6), Article 6FEA4. Retrieved from https://www.joe.org/joe/2006december/a4.php

Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77–101. doi: 10.1191/1478088706qp063oa

Daud, R., & Carruthers, C. (2008). Outcome study of an after-school program for youth in a high-risk environment. Journal of Park & Recreation Administration, 26(2), 95-114.

Deutsch, N. L., Blyth, D. A., Kelley, J., Tolan, P. H., & Lerner, R. M. (2017). Let’s talk after-school: The promises and challenges of positive youth development for after-school research, policy, and practice. In N. Deutsch (Ed.), After-school programs to promote positive youth development (pp. 45-68). Charlottesville, VA : Springer.

Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., & Pachan, M. (2010). A meta-analysis of after-school programs that seek to promote personal and social skills in children and adolescents. American Journal of Community Psychology, 45, 294-309. doi: 10.1007/s10464-010-9300-6

Fennick, E. & Royal, J. (2003). Community inclusion for children and youth with developmental disabilities. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 18(1), 20-27. doi: 10.1177/108835760301800104

Foley, J. T., Bryan, R. R., & McCubbin, J. A. (2008). Daily physical activity levels of elementary school-aged children with and without mental retardation. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, 20(4), 365-378. doi: 10.1080/13668250802688314

Ingram, P. D. (1999). Attitudes of Extension professionals toward diversity education in 4-H programs. Journal of Extension, 37(1), Article: 1FEA3. Retrieved from https://www.joe.org/joe/1999february/a3.php

King, G., Petrenchiky, T., Law, M., & Hurley, P. (2009). The enjoyment of formal and informal recreation and leisure activities: A compairison of school aged children with and without physical disabilities. International Journal of Disability Development and Education, 55(2), 109-130. doi: 10.1080/10349120902868558

Kleinert, H., Miracle, S., & Sheppard-Jones, K. (2007). Including students with moderate and severe intellectual disabilities in school extracurricular and community recreation activities: A statewide teacher survey. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 45(1), 46–55. doi: 10.1352/1934-9556(2007)45[46:ISWMAS]2.0.CO;2

LaVergne, D. D. (2013). Diversity inclusion in 4-H youth programs: Examining the perceptions among West Virginia 4-H youth professionals. The Journal of Extension, 51(4), Article 4FEA1. Retrieved from https://joe.org/joe/2013august/a1.php

Light, R. J. (1990). By design planning research on higher education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Lindsay, S., & McPherson, A.C. (2011). Experiences of social exclusion and bullying at school among children and youth with cerebral palsy. Journal of Disability and Rehabilitation, 34(2), 101-109. doi: 10.3109/09638288.2011.587086

Maxwell, J. A. (2013). Qualitative research design: an interactive approach (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

McBreen, D. (1994). What Cooperative Extension should know about the Americans with Disabilities Act. Journal of Extension, 32(4), Article 4FEA1. Retrieved from https://www.joe.org/joe/1994december/a1.php

Mouton, L., & Bruce, J. (2013). Current practices for training staff to accommodate youth with special health care needs in the 4-H camp setting. Journal of Extension, 51(1), Article 1RIB4. Retrieved from https://www.joe.org/joe/2013february/rb4.php

National 4-H Council. (2016). 2016 Annual report of the National 4-H Council. Retrieved from https://4-h.org/about/annual-report/

National Survey of Children's Health. (2016). Data query from the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative, Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health website. Retrieved from http://childhealthdata.org/browse/survey/results?q=1820&r=1

Nowell, L. S., Norris, J. M., White, D. E., & Moules, N. J. (2017). Thematic analysis: Striving to meet the trustworthiness criteria. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 16(1), doi: 10.1177/1609406917733847

Peterson, R. L., Grenwelge, C., Benz, M. R., Zhang, D., Resch, J. A., Mireles, G., & Mahadevan, L. (2012). Serving clientele with disabilities: An assessment of Texas FCS agents’ needs for implementing inclusive programs. Journal of Extension, 50(6), Article 6FEA7. Retrieved from https://www.joe.org/joe/2012december/a7.php

Riggs, N. R., & Greenberg, M. T. (2004). After-school youth development programs: A developmental-ecological model of current research. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 7(3), 177-190.

Rimmer, J. H., Rowland, J. L., & Yamaki, K. (2007). Obesity and secondary conditions in adolescents with disabilities: Addressing the needs of an underserved population. Journal of Adolescent Health, 41(3), 224-229. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2007.05.005

Rojewski, J. W., Lee I. H., & Gregg, N. (2015). Causal effects of inclusion on postsecondary education outcomes of individuals with high-incidence disabilities. Journal of Disabilty Policy Studies, 25(4), 210-219. doi: 10.1177/1044207313505648

Stumpf, M., Henderson, K., Luken, K., Bialeschki, D., & Casey II, M. (2002). 4-H programs with a focus on including youth with disabilities. Journal of Extension, 40(2), Article 2FEA4. Retrieved from https://joe.org/joe/2002april/a4.php

Stumpf-Downing, M., Henderson, K., Luken, K., & Bialeschki, D. (2004). Creating inclusive 4-H environments for people with disabilities. Journal of Extension, 42(4), Article 4FEA1 Retrieved from https://www.joe.org/joe/2004august/a1.php

Taylor, J., & Yun, J. (2012). Factors influencing staff inclusion of youth with disabilities in after-school programs. Therapeutic Recreation Journal, 46(4), 301-312.

Taylor-Winney, J., Xue, C., McNab, E, & Krahn, G. (2017). Inclusion of youth with disabilities in 4-H: A scoping literature review. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Trost, S. G., Rosenkranz, R. R., & Dzewaltowski, D. (2008). Physical activity levels among children attending after-school programs. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 40(4), 622-629. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e318161eaa5

United Nations. (2006). Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities: Article 3 - General principles. Retrieved from https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/convention-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities/article-3-general-principles.html

U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture. (n.d.). Vulnerable Populations. Retrieved from https://nifa.usda.gov/program/vulnerable-populations

Watts, C. E., Witt, P. A., & King, T. (2008). Predictors of outcomes for after-school program participants. Journal of Park & Recreation Administration, 26(2), 134-145.

Weiss, R. S. (1994). Learning from strangers: The art and method of qualitative interview studies. New York, N.Y: Free Press.

Weiss, C. H. (1998). Evaluation: Methods for studying programs and policies (2nd ed). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.