Self - Determination



Young children can begin to display self-determined behaviors early in life, with support from their families and teachers. Although young children are dependent on others for caregiving and support, they can begin to attain and use skills such as choice-making, simple problem solving, and making a few supported decisions related to ageappropriate activities before they can become selfdetermined later in life. Adults in the lives of young children can foster foundations of self-determination by promoting autonomy and self-regulation in safe environments within the home, school, and community.

- Ten Steps to Self-Determination: (PDF)

- A Parent's Guide to the Self-Determined Learning Model for Early Elementary Students: (PDF)

- A Teacher's Guide to Implementing the SDLMI for Elementary Teachers (PDF)


For youth and young adults, self-determination is essentially causal agency, so through volitional action, agentic action, and action-control beliefs, using accommodations if necessary, and with others providing opportunities for using self-determined actions, one can achieve preferred outcomes. Teachers, families, and others should also have high expectations for youth with IEPs to achieve to the utmost of their abilities. Self-determination is an important part of successful transition from school to work or to be college or career-ready. Self-determined principles support active engagement and participation in aspects of the general education curriculum and the activities in which others without disabilities do at school. A student in high school can set goals for what they wish to do later in life and pursue a plan to attain a desired quality of life as an adult.

- The Self-Determination Inventory Self-Report

- The Arc's Self-Determination Scale-Adolescent Version (PDF)

- The Arc's Self-Determination Scale-Adolescent Version: Procedural Guidelines (PDF)

- A Teacher's Guide to implementing SDLMI - Adolescent Version (PDF)

- Whose Future is it Anyway (PDF)


Beyond volition action described in transition, selfdetermination should also be seen as an individual characteristic of people that can be displayed in many aspects of a person's life. It is not only disability-related, but a construct that applies to each and every person as they move through the day. We often infuse self-determined learning and strategies within adulthood in adult service activities such as setting up an annual plan, obtaining and maintaining employment, finding a place and living in the community, and self-directed decision making in lieu of guardianship.

- The Arc's Self-Determination Scale-Adult Version (PDF)

- The Arc's Self-Determination Scale-Adult Version: Procedural Guidelines (PDF)

- It's My Future (PDF)

- What is Self-Determination and Why is it Important (PDF)

Life Span

Combining self-determination information for children and families, transition, and adulthood collectively provides a lifespan perspective. Some materials about selfdetermination discuss a continuous effort on the part of individuals, families, and others to promote selfdetermination over time, without age-specific limitations. Although young children cannot be fully self-determined, others can support young children to be a part of the community and have experiences which build selfdetermined skills over the time young people are in elementary and secondary school. Then, during transition to adulthood, and later on as adults, there are even more opportunities to use volitional action to experience a desired quality of life that fits expectations and supports self-determined behavior over the older ages within the lifespan.

- Self Determination and People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (PDF)

- SD Across the Lifespan (PDF)