Expectations Matter

Expectations play an important role in our lives, often behind the scenes. Both anecdotal evidence and research prove that the assumptions other people have about our abilities are quite influential and have a long-lasting effect.

That’s why raising expectations is a goal that runs through all of the Council’s work, and that’s why we’ve decided to create a short message that will spur all of us–family members, providers, educators, employers, everyday citizens–to stop and think twice about what we think people with disabilities can do: #ExpectationsMatter #ExpectAbility.

To continue this work, the Council now seeks proposals for small grants that focus on raising expectations about people with developmental disabilities in their schools, homes, workplaces, and communities so everyone feels respected, welcomed, and supported. 

To learn more about this funding opportunity, click the button below.

#ExpectationsMatter RFP

Match Instructions

Our 2018 story/photo contest was centered on the Expectations Matter theme. We received many entries, each one with an important message about how expectations have made a difference in the life of a person with developmental disabilities.

Here is the winner: 

 photo: Michael Granata, submitted by Laurie Granata

Sixteen years ago, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy named Michael. Michael was born with Down syndrome.

Early on, my husband asked the doctor if Michael could learn Spanish. Our extended family is Hispanic, and most of the children learn Spanish as their first language. The doctor explained that Michael would probably have speech and language issues, and we should focus on English. It was disappointing, because he was the first child in the family that wouldn’t speak Spanish.

As the years went on, our attention was focused on therapies and schoolwork. Learning another language always seemed out of reach.

When Michael entered high school, my husband suggested he take Spanish as an elective. I was doubtful, fearing that other students would laugh at him. I reluctantly agreed, and much to my surprise, Michael quickly picked up the language! I received glowing reports from the teacher about his success. He was an A student! Even more heartwarming was the comment a classmate made to Michael’s sister: “Is that your brother? He’s in my Spanish class. He’s really smart. When I don’t know the answer to something, I ask him!” I’ve never been so happy to be wrong.

Help us spread this message

  • Add #ExpectationsMatter #ExpectAbility to any posts that illustrate the power of high expectations.
  • Use this Facebook frame.
  • Use the images below in your presentations, or print them out and hang them in your office, classroom, or even on your refrigerator.
  • Check out this growing list of articles, videos, and other resources that could serve as teaching and training tools or simply food for thought.
Don’t forget:
#ExpectationsMatter #ExpectAbility
Pass it on!



The Relationship Between Parent Expectations and Postschool Outcomes of Adolescents with Disabilities (PDF)

By Bonnie Doren, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Jeff M. Gau, Oregon Research Institute, and Lauren E. Lindstrom, University of Oregon.

From abstract: “. . . parent expectations significantly predicted levels of autonomy, and autonomy predicted a number of postschool outcomes. Together, these findings suggest a need for interventions that support and foster positive parent expectations and parental supports to promote autonomy development.”

The Voices of Parents: Post-High School Expectations, Priorities, and Concerns for Children with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (PDF)

By Carly L. Blustein MEd, Eric W. Carter, PhD and Elise D. McMillan, JD.

From abstract: “The expectations of parents can shape the post-school pathways of young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Yet little is known about how parents view the employment prospects and priorities of their sons and daughters after high school.” 

Tennessee Works: Raising Expectations

This website provides a wide range of resources for parents in raising expectations. Check out the sidebar: “Ten Ways to Foster High Expectations for Work” for parents with tips such as “Ask the question: What do you want to be when you grow up?” and “Praise efforts rather than outcomes.”


Expectations of Families with Young Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities for Postsecondary Education (PDF)

By Dana Yarbrough, VCU Partnership for People with Disabilities, Elizabeth E. Getzel, VCU Center on Transition Innovations, and Joan Kester, George Washington University.

This article is about a study conducted in March 2014 “to examine parental expectations for PSE as a post school outcome.” A conclusion of the study is: “The lack of college being listed on the IEP for the majority of the participant’s students, as well as parent responses to other survey questions hint that perhaps parental expectations grew less from the federal mandated special education IEP transition process and more from their own experiences having attended college and wanting the same experience for their child, even if their child has I/DD. And, the parents pointed to access to information as a key conduit for growing their parental expectations for PSE; information that came from connections they had in the community with other parents and with family organizations, such as an Arc chapter.”

The Power of Expectations (PDF)

By Meg Grigal, PhD and Debra Hart, M.S. Institute for Community Inclusion, University of Massachusetts-Boston.

An editorial about expectations and higher education – “Expectations are an extremely powerful force in determining whether a young person goes to college. And they are equally, if not more powerful, in determining if young people with an intellectual disability will go to college.”

Preparing Students with Disabilities for College and Career—Why Alternate Assessments Should Only Be Used for Up to 1% of Students

This one-page handout from the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities explains how students with disabilities must be meaningfully included in the assessment system. It lists “10 Reasons Why and Alternate Assessment Should Only Be Used for Up to 1% of All Students” and provides first-hand accounts of the power of high expectations in education.

The Path to Higher Education With an Intellectual Disability

This May 2017 article in The Atlantic takes a look at how the number of degree-granting institutions for people with intellectual disabilities is growing.

The Power of High Expectations for Special Education Students

This blog by David Johnson, Ph.D. discusses the progress that has been made and the significant work that is still to be done in improving special education practices and improving outcomes for students and adults with disabilities.

Taking Charge: Stories of Success and Self-Determination

By Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D.

Students with disabilities sharing tips for success. 


Tennessee Works: Raising Expectations in the Workplace

This resource includes videos, success stories, and research that support raising expectations in the workplace.

Predictors of Postschool Employment Outcomes for Young Adults With Severe Disabilities (PDF)

By Eric W. Carter, Diane Austin, and Audrey A. Trainor.

From abstract: “Although entry into the world of work is a prominent marker of postschool success in the United States, students with severe disabilities often leave high school without the skills, experiences, and supports that lead to meaningful employment. The authors examined the extent to which an array of student, family, and school factors was associated with employment during the 2 years following high school. Having held a paid, community-based job while still in high school was strongly correlated with postschool employment success. In addition, being male and having more independence in self-care, higher social skills, more household responsibilities during adolescence, and higher parent expectations related to future work were all associated with increased odds of employment after school for young adults with severe disabilities.”

Raising Expectations for U.S. Youth with Disabilities: Federal Disability Policy Advances Integrated Employment (PDF)

By Jeanne Novak, C-E-P-S Journal , Vol. 5, No. 1, Year 2015.

The article “examines how contemporary U.S. federal disability policy has heightened expectations that youth with disabilities – including those with significant disabilities – can and should be prepared to work in integrated workplaces.”

In this video, a young professional explains how expectations and early work experiences had an effect on her success today.


Use these images in PowerPoints, presentations, social media, or print out and hang in your workplace or home. Share widely and spread the message!

Expectations Matter Expect Ability Logo

Use this logo on your website, social media posts, training presentations, or include it in your newsletters.

Facebook Frame

Use this Facebook frame with a picture that personifies raising expectations.

#ExpectationsMatter #ExpectAbility Sign

Take a picture holding this image and share a personal quote about how expectations have made a difference in your life—post to social media with: #ExpectationsMatter #ExpectAbility. Click Here for PDF.

Expectations Circle

This image exemplifies how higher expectations lead to more inclusion. Please use this graphic for training presentations, PowerPoints, or social media.

Circtle that says Expectations Matter. Expect Ability.

General/Food for Thought

People with Disabilities Drive Innovation

This article by a disability rights lawyer who is deaf-blind illustrates how, “people with disabilities are uniquely positioned to develop solutions that advance technology.”


I’m not Your Inspiration, Thank you Very Much

“Stella Young is a comedian and journalist who happens to go about her day in a wheelchair — a fact that doesn’t, she’d like to make clear, automatically turn her into a noble inspiration to all humanity. In this very funny talk, Young breaks down society’s habit of turning disabled people into “inspiration porn.” ”

A Teen Who Is Unable To Speak Has Become A Rapper

“You should always rise to be able to do what you want. And you know, never let the opinions of others hold you back.” This video is about a young songwriter/rapper who was born without a jaw and pathways for oxygen says.

Deej’s Story: a First-Year College Student who has Autism

This is the story of DJ Savarese (“Deej”), a writer and advocate for nonspeaking people who have autism.  “Once a “profoundly disabled” foster kid on a fast track to nowhere, Deej is now a first-year college student who insists on standing up for his peers: people who are dismissed as incompetent because they are neurologically diverse.” 

A young child with a developmental disability

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