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
- 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 InstructionThere 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
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.
Age-Appropriate Transition Assessment Toolkit
This toolkit from the National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center (NSTTAC) 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
Research to Practice Lesson Plan Starter
This National Technical Assistance on Transition (NTACT) 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.
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 lesson plans regarding decision-making skills, goal setting and attainment, problem-solving skills, self-awareness, and self-advocacy
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.
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.
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)
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.
Technologies for Self-Determination for Youth with Developmental Disabilities
This paper focuses on "technologies for voice" that are related to the self-determination of youth with developmental disabilities. The authors describe a self-determination model that values family-focused, community-referenced pedagogies employing "new media" to give voice to youth and their families. In line with the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words, many youth and families find they are better able to convey their life situations and express their hopes and fears using multimedia (e.g., camcorders, voice recorders, digital cameras, PowerPoint) to find their voices in transition and IEP planning meetings. Systematic strategies are described to support teachers and other youth advocates to employ multimedia technologies as tools of self-determination.
Zarrow Center for Learning Enrichment
The Zarrow Center for Learning Enrichment 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 and self-determination educational materials can be found on this site.