Skip to main content

LEAD Model

Two Loyola faculty members, Lisa Schoenbrodt, a professor in the speech-language pathology program and Leah Saal, co-director and associate professor of literacy education, created the LEAD Model in 2016.

The LEAD Model is a three-pronged program model that supports individuals with Intellectual Disabilities and/or Developmental Disabilities (ID/DD) to serve as leaders and Self-Advocate Educators/Trainers. Each training consists of both content delivery (existing or created) and scenario-based application of content in either face-to-face or online environments.

Prong One: Academics

Drs. Leah Katherine Saal and Lisa Schoenbrodt, Loyola University Maryland professors, have a combined 35+ years of experience serving people with Intellectual and/or Developmental Disabilities. They developed the LEAD Model to recruit, train, support, and evaluate Self-Advocate Educators who train service providers, first responders, and others who assist or professionally engage with people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in face-to-face and online environments.

Prong Two: Provider Partnerships

The LEAD Model’s impact and efficacy draws on meaningful collaboration and commitment to partnership. Specifically, LEAD Model partners include:

  • Municipal Police Academy - Prince George’s Community College (MD)
  • Baltimore Police Department (MD)
  • Montgomery County Fire and Rescue (MD)
  • Howard County Fire and Rescue (MD)
  • Hagerstown Community Rescue Service (MD)

Prong Three: Community-based Advocacy Organizations

Community-based advocacy organizations serve as the third prong of the LEAD Model. They collaborate with the other prongs to identify, recruit, and support the training of Self-Advocate Educators. LEAD Model partners include Special Olympics of Maryland and Best Buddies of Maryland.

Funding and support for entities and programs incorporating the LEAD Model come from Maryland Department of Disabilities/ Ethan Saylor Alliance, Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council, the Arc of Maryland, the Horizon Foundation, and the Eric Davis Myers Memorial Fund.


Since its inception, 25 Self-Advocate Educators have been recruited, trained, and supported within the LEAD Model. LEAD Model programs have trained over 450 individuals in law enforcement and 300 fire and emergency medical providers in initial training or continuing education settings.

LEAD Model Trainees report positive outcomes and experiences in the LEAD Model. For example, some comments from First Responders regarding participation in role-play scenarios with SAE’s include:

  • “It was a great experience to get to work with individuals with disabilities and use strategies learned to aid in their call for service.”
  • “Amazing. Made me better understand how to handle myself and how their disability doesn’t make them different than everyone else.”
  • “I enjoyed it very much. The role playing and discussion helped me get a better understanding. Having Elena’s [Self-Advocate Educator] input also helped in what she saw or thought we need to do better.”

LEAD Model SAEs also report positive outcomes and experiences in the LEAD Model. For example, in answer the question, “In your role as a Self-Advocate Educator, what knowledge or skills did you teach to first responders?,” SAEs noted:

  • “To take your time with me and people like us. Don’t rush and listen to us.”
  • “I helped first responders learn to ask a lot of questions and to listen to my answers. And to be patient.”
  • “As a Self-Advocate Educator, I was able to act out what it was like for me to be overstressed and unsure what might be going on in the emergency situation. I acted the situation out in a normally different manner then I would be in usual settings, becoming difficult and often times quiet, so that the EMTs could work in different ways to hopefully figure out and treat me in the best way possible through respect and kindness in a different environment.”

To request information on the LEAD Model or for information on enrolling in upcoming trainings, please follow the link below.

LEAD Model information and trainings

Contact Us