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The following was written by Marianne Holman Prescott for the Deseret News. To read the full article, click here

Young people with disabilities and their families want more than to be integrated or included. “They want to experience belonging,” Dr. Erik Carter said during the 14th annual Marjorie Pay Hinckley Lecture at Brigham Young University held on Feb. 8.

Carter is the Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Special Education at Vanderbilt University and was this year’s guest lecturer at the annual event. His research focuses on evidence-based strategies for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, autism or other disabilities to find support and promote valued roles in school, work, community and congregational settings.

Sharing his findings in research regarding young people with disabilities and their families, Carter shared “what it means to be a community marked by belonging.”

“My sense is, even though I am going to focus on those young people [with disabilities], … this is really a conversation tonight about what it means to foster belonging for anyone. So I challenge you to think about how the ideas I share today might be expressed within the communities that matter most to each of you.”

Sharing results from his multi-year research project that included nearly 500 young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, Carter offered 10 dimensions that help in fostering a sense of belonging in faith communities.

“We foster belonging not through programs but through relationships,” Carter said. “That’s how belonging comes to pass.”

And those relationships come from simple ordinary gestures.

“These are well within our capacity to do, as the church, as the people who live in our communities,” he said.

To read more about those simple, ordinary gestures, click here