Self-Advocacy & Self-Determination


Self-advocacy is recognized as the ability to speak and act on behalf of one’s self or a cause. Self-advocacy is an important skill that students use in their youth and throughout life. Self-advocacy skills include being assertive, knowing one's rights, negotiating and speaking up for one's self or a cause.


Self-determination is the process of taking control and making decisions that affect one’s life. Self-determination provides students with the skills and abilities to:

  • Make choices
  • Make decisions
  • Problem solve
  • Set and attain goals
  • Self-advocate
  • Independently perform

Simply stated, self-determination skills are those skills needed to manage one's own life. In schools, students' needs for self-determination instruction are identified and documented in the individual educational plan (IEP). The Florida State Board of Education Rule 6A-603028(3)(h)9 indicates that the need for self-determination instruction should be identified early so so that students will be prepared for self-advocacy as they plan their futures.

"In order to ensure quality transition planning and services, IEP Teams shall begin the process of identifying transition services needs of students with disabilities, to include consideration of the student’s need for instruction or the provision of information in the area of self-determination to assist the student to be able to actively and effectively participate in IEP meetings and self-advocate, beginning no later than age fourteen (14), so that needed postsecondary goals may be identified and in place by age sixteen (16)."

Strategies for Delivering Self-Determination Instruction

There are many strategies for delivering self-determination instruction. The following are a few examples of what some Florida districts are doing:
  • Identifying the student’s priority education need (e.g. self-advocacy skills, goal setting, decision making)
  • Developing relevant measurable goals in the IEP that address the need for self-determination instruction
  • Promoting and supporting IEP participation and leadership
  • Adding a line to the IEP to note how instruction will be provided and/or information disseminated
  • Selecting self-determination curricula
  • Integrating self-determination in the general education curricula
  • Including samples of students' completed activities in the student’s portfolio
  • Using instructional strategies that provide opportunities for students to practice self-determination and self-advocacy skills


Deafverse is a choose-your-own-adventure self-advocacy and self-determination online game created just for deaf teenagers, where they can learn important skills for success in high school and beyond. This free game includes the following accessibility features: ASL, English voiceover, and large print.

Person-Centered Planning

Person-centered planning (PCP) is an approach to promote self-determination for individuals with disabilities. It is frequently used with students with more significant disabilities who need an alternative to traditional approaches in order to convey their strengths, preferences, interests and needs. A team of family, friends and sometimes providers come together and work together over time to assist the individual in defining and reaching his or her dreams. The team works collaboratively through informal meetings to identify goals and dreams and assist in attaining a self-determined quality of life.

Also see our page on Person-Centered Planning in the A-Z Glossary section of this website.



Age-Appropriate Transition Assessment Toolkit
This toolkit from the National Technical Assistance Center on Transition: the Collaborative (NTACT:C) provides an overview of transition assessments, including self-determination assessments. Samples of some types of instruments are provided, and formal and informal assessment methods are described.

The Arc’s Self-Determination Scale (Adolescent Version)
The Arc’s Self Determination Scale is designed for adolescents with cognitive disabilities. It is a student self-report format which may be administered to individually or in groups to students whose reading abilities are sufficient. It may also be read to a student with additional staff support.

Self Determination Knowledge Scale
The Self- Determination Knowledge Scale is based on Field and Hoffman’s Steps to Self-Determination Curriculum and includes five major components. The model is designed for students with and without disabilities. It measures the student’s self-determination knowledge in relation to the lessons taught in the curriculum. This instrument has undergone reliability and validity testing.

Curricula and Courses

Map It: What Comes Next? Module
Map It: What Comes Next is a free, online, interactive training designed for transition-aged students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Video vignettes signed in ASL with spoken English and written transcription, self-assessments, and a series of interactive questions guide students as they identify their goals and develop strategies to achieve them. All interactive materials are saved and compiled in an electronic portfolio.

My IEP Owner's Manual
This student manual developed by the PACER Center is a fillable PDF featuring information the IEP team, present levels, measurable post-secondary goals, annual goals, transition services, courses of study, transfer of rights and an IEP meeting checklist.

Research to Practice Lesson Plan Starter
This National Technical Assistance Center on Transition: the Collaborative (NTACT:C) library provides lesson plans for IEP Development, Student Participation, Planning, and other topics that incorporate a number of strategies including self-advocacy and self-determination.

Route to Self-Determination
Many individuals may find it challenging to attend face-to-face training. The route to Self-Determination, a Florida Developmental Disbilities Council, Inc., initiative, is a self-paced online train-the trainer-module for family members and indivivuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities on the principles of self-determination.

Scope and Sequence: Self-Determination Course
The purpose of this scope and sequence is to support teachers implementing Self-Determination (Course Number 7963140), which includes activities and resources.

Self-Determination Course Description
The purpose of this Florida Department of Education course, listed on CPALMS, for high school students and adults is to enable them to develop and apply self-determination skills in school, home, community, and work settings. Course content includes self-awareness, self-advocacy, self-efficacy, personal and career planning, goal setting, independent performance and self-evaluation.

Standing Up For Me
This curriculum was developed in Florida and designed to advance the self-determination and self-advocacy skills of youth in Exceptional Student Education (ESE).The newly revised 2012 version of this curriculum covers the primary, intermediate, middle and high school grades and includes classroom materials, activities and evaluations.

Steps to Self-Determination
This curriculum is designed to promote student self-determination. The package includes an instructor’s guide, student activity book and pre-post assessments. It may be used with middle and secondary students at the independent level.

Teaching Self-Advocacy Skills
This National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (NTACT) webpage contains information on teaching self-advocacy skills (see pages 8-9).

Teaching Self-Determination Skills
This NTACT webpage includes multiple resources and definitions to support educators and parents in understanding, planning and designing lessons (via curricula resources and links) on self-determinations skills.

Additional External Resources

Beach Center on Disabilities, Self-Determination Section
The Beach Center on Disability focuses research, training and advocacy on promoting abilities of people of all ages who experience disability, in order to assure a self-determined, goal-driven, and self-selected quality of life within communities where everyone lives.

Center for Self-Determination
The Center for Self-Determination is the primary clearinghouse and technical assistance and training source for self-determination. In addition to the five principles of self-determination, it contains resources, articles, news, web links and a store.

Chart Your Own Future: How Your IEP Can Help
This information sheet describes a three-step process to help high school students take a more active role in the IEP process. Resources for students and families are included.

Connecting High Schoolers to Apprenticeships
My Future, My Way; First Steps Toward College, A Workbook for Middle and Junior High School Students.

Florida SAND
Florida Self-Advocate Network'D (FL SAND) is a statewide organization of self-advocacy groups in Florida supported by Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, Inc. FL SAND is led by self-advocates to support advocacy efforts at the local, grassroots level and to provide a united voice for statewide issues and topics that are important to self-advocates and all persons with disabilities in Florida. The website contains information about local groups and other resources in support of self-advocacy.

Fostering Self-Determination Among Children and Youth with Disabilities - Ideas from Parents for Parents

This guide is unique because its ideas about how to best promote self-determination among children with disabilities are suggested from parents and for parents.

I'm Determined
This website contains a number of resources from the Virginia Department of Education's Self Determination Project including curriculum modules, films, plans and tools such as templates for goal setting and student involvement.

My IEP Owner's Manual
This student manual developed by the PACER Center is a fillable PDF featuring information the IEP team, present levels, measurable post-secondary goals, annual goals, transition services, courses of study, transfer of rights and an IEP meeting checklist.

Navigating Your IEP: Are you on the right track towards your future?
This guide from the Florida Youth Council is written by youth for youth. It explains what the Individual Education Plan (IEP) is, why it is important, and how students with disabilities can take charge of their IEP process. Large file (19.4 MB)

Promoting Quality Individualized Learning Plans (ILPs) throughout the Lifespan: A Revised and Updated ILP How to Guide 2.0
This guide expands on resources in National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability (NCWD)/Youth's earlier ILP How to Guide 2.0 provides career developmental resources and examples of ILP implementation for an expanded range of age groupsand settings including elementary and secondary school, postsecondary education, workforce development programs and other non-school settings. It also offers strategies for building and supporting capacity at the local level to facilitate adoption of the ILP process and provides exampls of how to ensure that ILPs are implemented with quality.

Self-Determination for Middle and High School Students
This National Center on Secondary Education and Transition topic explores how self-determination, which results from the development of self-esteem, self-awareness and other positive learning skills, helps children and teens learn to exercise personal control over their lives.

Self-Determination for Postsecondary Students
This National Center on Secondary Education and Transition topic explores how self-determination—the combined skills of self-awareness, self-advocacy, self-efficacy, decision-making, independent performance, self-evaluation and adjustment—can contribute to an individual’s ability to establish and achieve his or her own goals during and after higher education experiences.

Zarrow Institute on Transition and Self-Determination
The Zarrow Institute on Transition and Self-Determination facilitates successful secondary and postsecondary educational, vocational and personal outcomes for students and adults with disabilities. Dr. James Martin is the Zarrow Center Director and is well known for his work in the area of self-determination. Free resources and links to commercial products on self-determination assessments, curriculum and educational materials can be found on this site.