Self Determination and Self Advocacy

Self-determination and the empowerment of people with disabilities.

"disability is a natural part of the human experience and in no way diminishes the right of individuals to":

a. live independently;

b. enjoy self-determination;

c. make choices;

d. contribute to society;

e. pursue meaningful careers; and

f. enjoy full inclusion and integration in the economic, political, social, cultural and educational mainstream of America (Rehabilitation Act of 1973)

What is self-determination?

Put most simply, the self-determination refers to both the right and capacity of individuals to exert control over and direct their lives. Disability advocates and activists have stressed the inherent right of people with disabilities to assume responsibility for and control over their lives (Kennedy, 1996; Ward, 1996). In the 1990s, promoting and enhancing the self-determination of students with disabilities, particularly as a function of the transition planning process, became best practice (Wehmeyer, Agran & Hughes, 1998). These efforts focused primarily on enhancing student capacity to become self-determined and exert control in one's life by promoting goal setting, Self-determined people apply "a combination of skills, knowledge and beliefs" that enable them "to engage in goal directed, autonomous behavior. An understanding of one's strengths and limitations together with a belief in oneself as capable and effective are essential in self-determination. When acting on the basis of these skills and attitudes, individuals have greater ability to take control of their lives and assume the role of successful adults in our society"

Common components of self-determined behavior:

a. awareness of personal preferences, interests, strengths and limitations;

b. ability to:

     differentiate between wants and needs,

     make choices based on preferences,  interests, wants and needs,

     consider multiple options and  anticipate consequences for decisions,

     initiate and take action whenneeded,

     evaluate decisions based on  the outcomes of previous decisions and revise future
     decisions accordingly,

     set and work toward goals,

     regulate behavior,

     use communication skills such as negotiation, compromise and persuasion to reach goals, and

     assume responsibility for actions  and decisions;

arrowLesson Plans from the NSTTAC website 
Research to Practice Lesson Plan Starter Library- 108 lesson plans 
Self-Determination Skills
  1. Self-Determination Component Skills

    Abery, B., Rudrud, L., Arndt, K., Schauben, L., & Eggebeen, A. (1995). Evaluating a multicomponent program for enhancing the self-determination of youth with disabilities. Intervention in School and Clinic, 30, 170-179.

  2. Self-Knowledge, Communication, Life Skills, and Goal Setting

    Fullerton, A., & Coyne, P. (1999). Developing skills and concepts for self-determination in young adults with autism. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 14, 42-52.

  3. Self-Determination for Secondary School Students

    Hoffman, A., & Field, S. (1995). Promoting self-determination through effective curriculum development. Intervention in School and Clinic, 30, 134-141.

    Choice Making

  4. Choice Making for Students with Severe Disabilities

    (1) Browder, D. M., Cooper, K. J., & Lim, L. (1998). Teaching adults with severe disabilities to express their choice of settings for leisure activities. Education and Training in Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, 33, 228-238.

  5. Choice Making in Residential Preferences

    Foxx, R. M., Faw, G. D., Taylor, S., Davis, P. K., & Fulia, R. (1993). Would I be able to? Teaching clients to assess the availability of their community living life style preferences. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 98, 235-248.

  6. Choice Making in Leisure Skills

    Nietupski, J., Hamre-Nietupski, S., Green K., Varnum-Teeter, K., Twedt, B., LePera, D., Scebold,K., & Hanrahan, M. (1986). Self-initiated and sustained leisure activity participation by students with moderate/severe handicaps. Education and Training of the Mentally Retarded, 21, 259-264.

  7. Choice Making and Turn-Taking

    Sigafoos, J., Roberts, D., Couzens, D., Kerr, M. (1993). Providing opportunities for choice-making and turn-taking to adults with multiple disabilities. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, 5, 297-309.

  8. Choice Making for Students with Severe Disabilities

    (2) Stafford, A. M., Alberto, P. A., Fredrick, L. D., Heflin, F.J., & Heller, K. W. (2002). Preference variability and the instruction of choice making with students with severe intellectual disabilities. Education and Training in Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, 37(1), 70-88.

    Decision Making

  9. Decision Making and Goal Setting

    Phillips, P. (1990). A self-advocacy plan for high school students with learning disabilities: A comparative case study analysis of students, teachers, and parents perceptions of program effects. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 90, 466-471.

Promoting Self-Determined Behavior using the Life Centered Career Education Curriculum:
Michael Wehmeyer, Ph.D

IDEA 2004 and Transition Planning / Person Centered Planning / Indicator 13 Checklist / Age Appropriate Transition Assessment /Sample Transition Plans / Transition Links / Self Determination / Transition Planning for the Person with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities / Major Components of the Transition Plan /home