What are Self-Determination Skills?
Self-determination skills allow an individual to exert control in making important life decisions. Associated skills include goal setting, problem solving, and self-advocacy (Burke, Raley, Shogren, Hagiwara, Mumbardo-Adam, Uyanik, & Behrens, 2018). The Virginia Department of Education’s I’m Determined Project has identified 9 elements of self-determination.
Teaching self-determination skills to students with disabilities has been deemed a best practice in special education (Chou, Wehmeyer, Palmer, & Lee, 2017; Shogren, 2013). Researchers have linked high self-determination with academic success and increased levels of community involvement (Shogern, Wehmeyer, Palmer, Rifenbark, & Little, 2015).
Self-Determination for Students with Intellectual Disabilities
A range of contemporary literature has investigated post-secondary outcomes for young adults with intellectual disabilities. Recent studies have found that fewer than 10% of such individuals attain competitive employment (Butterworth, Hiersteiner, Engler, Berhadsky, & Bradley, 2015). Segregated settings with minimal community interaction seem to be the norm (Cimera, Wehman, West, & Burgess, 2012). As schools work to ensure inclusive opportunities for all students, how can educators foster opportunities for their students with intellectual disabilities to be fully included members of their communities?
The Virginia Department of Education’s I’m Determined Project offers a number of free resources to help educators promote self-determination skills. The One Pager helps students learn to identify personal strengths, interests, preferences, and needs. This particular tool is often used by students to introduce themselves during a student-led IEP meeting. The Good Day Plan teaches students to identify the variables that lead to success (or lack-there-of) during a typical day. Favored by educators who teach social skills and initiate behavior plans, this tool helps students develop internal locus of control. The Goal Plan teaches students to set reasonable goals and track progress. Many teachers use this tool to get input from students in the development of IEPs and transition plans.
Each June, over a hundred youth with disabilities from across Virginia meet on the campus of James Madison University for the I’m Determined Youth Summit. Selected youth, ages 13-21, participate in a range of self-discovery and team building activities that promote goal setting, problem solving, and self-advocacy. The application for the Youth Summit can be found here. (The deadline is March 8, 2019.)
The MOVE Conference is held at Virginia State University each July. The conference is open to African American males with disabilities who are rising 9th, 10th, or 11th graders. The aim of the event is to empower participants to overcome barriers, become self-determined, and graduate high school college and career ready. Further details can be found here.
Burke, K. M., Raley, S. K., Shogren, K. A., Hagiwara, M., Mumbardo-Adam, C., Uyanik, H., and Behrens, S. (2018). A meta-analysis of interventions to promote self-determination for students with disabilities. Remedial and Special Education, 1, 1-13.
Butterworth, J., Hiersteiner, D., Engler, J., Bershadsky, J., and Bradley, V. J. (2015). National core indicators: Data on the current state of employment of adults with IDD and suggestions for policy development. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 42, 209-220.
Cimera, R. E., Wehman, P., West, M., and Burgess, S. (2012). Do sheltered workshops enhance employment outcomes for adults with autism spectrum disorder? Autism, 16, 87-94.