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The Essentials of Self-Determination Introduction


Dr. Michael Ward has been a leader in the field of self-determination at the federal and state levels since before the 1980’s when self-determination became a focal point for research and practice across the country. Not only has he provided leadership at the federal and state levels, but also on a personal level. Dr. Ward is a person with a disability who has experienced self-determination first hand.

According to him (1996, pg.15),

“If disabled people are ever to attain true independence, the acquisition of self-determination skills is critically important!….This means that youth with disabilities must be given opportunities to learn and practice self-determination skills as well as explore their own assertiveness. They must validate who they are and feel good about being a person with a disability…”
People with disabilities are guaranteed certain rights by the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) so that they may participate in society just as those without disabilities. Self-determination skills are necessary for people with disabilities, especially youth, to have in order to achieve a life of their choice.

The purpose of this module is to provide you with a general knowledge of self-determination as well as a framework for providing self-determination instruction to your students. You will be given information about numerous curricula and instructional resources that are free online, or from publishers. Some of these materials have been identified as evidence-based (Test, Fowler, Richter, Mazzotti, White, Walker, Kohler & Kortering, 2009). Finally, for each critical element of self-determination, you will receive instructional strategies and reflect upon your own practice in teaching students students to be more self-determined.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this online training, you will be able to:

Session 1: Transition and IDEA

  • Define and explain self-determination.
  • Describe the characteristics of a self-determined person.
  • Explain the importance of teaching students to be self-determined.
  • Identify the difference between entitlement programs and eligibility programs and how self-determination assists students move from entitlement to eligibility programs.
  • Explain some key research findings of students who exhibit self-determined behaviors.
  • Identify how self-determination is reflected in IDEA.

Session 2: A Model of Self-Determination

  • Describe the key elements of Hoffman & Field (2005) Model of Self-Determination.
  • Identify instructional strategies that can be used to address each element of the Hoffman & Field (2005) Model of Self-Determination.
  • Identify methods to gain family involvement in self-determination instruction.
  • For each section of the Model of Self-Determination, reflect on current self-determination instruction practices and identify content areas in which instruction and practices should be enhanced.
  • Practice applying information regarding the Model of Self-Determination and instructional strategies to a case study.

Session 3: Curricula, Resources & Materials

  • Review examples from self-determination curricula, resources, and materials.
  • From the curricula and resources provided, identify which ones may assist in addressing the practices that need to be enhanced.
  • Identify next steps in changing instructional practices related to self-determination.