Beach Center on Disability



Self-Determination refers to the process of making things happen in one’s own life. Self-determined action involves the capacity, the needed supports, and the opportunity provided for making choices, setting, goals, solving problems, and making decisions. These choices and decisions may be related to where a person lives, whether the person has a job, and how the person spends leisure time.

The process of becoming self-determined can start early in life as families, caregivers, and teachers engage children and youth in active learning and capacity building over time. Self-determination is an active process that beyond individual abilities, often requires both family advocacy and self-advocacy, when appropriate, to support a desired quality of life over time.

Beach Center work on self-determination is multidimensional:

Measurement of self-determination in youth and young adults with and without disabilities;

Student involvement in education (including IEPs) and access to the general education curriculum;

Transition of youth from school to adulthood/self-determination and adults;

Self-determination linkages to quality of life and positive psychology; and

Building a foundation for later self-determination during early childhood through family-professional partnership.

“Moby Dick is my favorite:” Evaluating a cognitively accessible portable reading system for audio books for individuals with intellectual disability (2008)

Reports the findings of a study that tested the use of a specially designed reader by individuals with intellectual disability to access electronic books and documents.

Click link for article:[290:MIMFEA]2.0.CO;2

A preliminary investigation of the relationship of transition preparation and self-determination for students with disabilities in postsecondary educational settings

This article examined that how post-secondary students rate the quality of their high school transition preparation program related to their levels of self-determination.

Access to the general curriculum of middle school students with mental retardation: An observational study (2003)

This study examined the degree to which middle school students with mental retardation have access to the general curriculum and the impact of the classroom setting and the students' level of ability on such access.

An intervention package to support high school students with mental retardation in general education classrooms (2002)

This research investigated the effects of using 9 five-part intervention packages to support general education classroom performance of four high school students with mental retardation.

Beyond access: Ensuring progress in the general education curriculum for students with severe disabilities (2006)

Commented on the past and present state of access to the general education curriculum for students with disabilities, and insights beyond access for future research and practice.

Defining mental retardation and ensuring access to the general curriculum (2003).

The shift in the 1992 definition and classification system in the American Association on Mental Retardation’s terminology and classification manual (continued in the 2002 manual) toward a supports paradigm and defining mental retardation as a function of the interaction between a person’s independent functioning and the context in which that person lives, learns, works and plays provides a framework within which we can consider how to more effectively enable students to gain access to the general curriculum.

Enabling a prelinguistic communicator with autism to use pictures as a strategy for repairing listener misunderstandings: A case study (2010)

Describes a case study where a changing-criterion design was used in effectively enabling a prelinguistic student to use picture cards to repair a communication breakdown. 

Enhanced self-determination of adults with mental retardation as an outcome of moving to community-based work or living environments (2001)

This article examines the self-determination changes of individuals with intellectual disabilities before and after moving from a more restrictive to a less restrictive work or living environment.

Enhancing independent Internet access for individuals with mental retardation through use of a specialized web browser: A pilot study (2001)

This article examined the use of a specialized Internet browser called Web Trek. individuals with mental retardation were able search for web sites, save favorite sites and return to sites they had saved.

Enhancing independent time-management skills of individuals with mental retardation using a palmtop personal computer (2002)

This article describes a comparison of computer use and using a written schedule to support key skills such as time-management and scheduling for 12 adults with mental retardation.

Enhancing self-determination of culturally diverse students with disabilities: Current status and future directions

The authors addressed four main topics in self-determination for students with disabilities. The first topic relates to the effects of self-determination with regard to preventing dropout and promoting transition outcomes. The second topic explained self-determination as a concept that carries cultural and socioeconomic values. the third topic included practices that promoted self-determination related skills among culturally diverse students with disabilities. Finally, conclusion and future directions were addressed.

Evaluating a GPS-based transportation device to support independent bus travel by people with intellectual disability (2010)

Reports the findings of a study where GPS technology was used by individuals with intellectual disability to successfully navigate new bus routes.

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Increasing the problem-solving skills of students with developmental disabilities participating in general education (2002)

This article reports the results of a study in which four students with cognitive disabilities were taught problem-solving skills using the Self-Determined Learning Model of Instruction.

Infusing self-determination into 18-21 services for students with intellectual or developmental disabilities: A multi-stage, multiple component model (2006)

Reviews IDEA services for ages 18 to 21; describes indicators of high quality programs, a model for promoting self-determination, and uses for that model.

Leaving the garden: Henry Herbert Goddard’s exodus from the Vineland Training School (2006)

Highlights the impact of Henry Herbert Goddard on the fields of psychology, intelligence testing and mental retardation during his time as director at The Vineland Training School.

Click link for article:[150:LTGRHH]2.0.CO;2

National survey of the use of assistive technology by adults with mental retardation (1998)

A survey completed by 1,218 family members of people with mental retardation from 47 states and the District of Columbia concluded that availability and cost were the primary barriers to the use of assistive technology for this population.

Participation of students with severe disabilities in the general education curriculum: The effects of the Self-Determined Learning Model of Instruction (2006)

Describes the use of the SDLMI with three students with moderate to severe disabilities to achieve academic goals through utilizing self-directed learning strategies.

Promoting student active classroom participation skills through instruction to promote self-regulated learning and self-determination

This article examined the impact of the SDLMI on academic skills for three junior high students with cognitive disabilities who were included in a general education health class. Results showed that the level of students participation in the classroom was improved.

Public policy and the enhancement of desired outcomes for persons with intellectual disability (2009)

Shogren, K.A., Bradley, V.J., Gomez, S.C., Yeager, M.H., Schalock, R.L., Borthwick-Duffy, S., Buntinx, W.H. et al. (2009). Public policy and the enhancement of desired outcomes for persons with intellectual disability. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 47, 307-319.

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Rethinking inclusion: Schoolwide applications (2005)

Inclusion is usually thought of as the placement of special education students in general education classes. This article presents a new vision of integrated education where previously specialized adaptations are used to enhance the learning of all students.

Self-determination -- A life-span perspective (2010)

Palmer, S.B. (2010). Self-determination -- A life-span perspective. Focus on Exceptional Children, 42, 1-16. Red number 2, blue number 3, black number 5

Self-determination and individuals with severe disabilities: Reexamining meanings and misinterpretations (2005)

Reviews the definition and conceptualization of self-determination, its misperceptions, and its application to individuals with disabilities.

Self-determination and quality of life: Implications for special education services and supports (2001)

Two concepts that are receiving growing attention in special education are self-determination and quality of life. Promoting and enhancing student’s self-determination and perceived quality of life can serve to foster these positive outcomes. 

Self-determination for individuals with significant cognitive disabilities and their families (2001)

Two key issues in self-determination for people with significant cognitive disabilities and their families are addressed.

The effects of problem-solving instruction on the self-determined learning of secondary students with disabilities (2003)

In this chapter, the authors demonstrate a model of the conditions needed for discovery learning by secondary students with disabilities.

The intellectual disability construct and its relation to human functioning (2008)

Explores the underlying constructs of the terms intellectual disability and mental retardation; describes the AAIDD’s multidimensional model of human functioning.

Click link for article:[311:TIDCAI]2.0.CO;2

The relationship between self-determination and quality of life for adults with mental retardation (1998)

In the present study data were collected on the quality of life and self-determination of 50 individuals with mental retardation, and data were analyzed, using discriminant function analysis and correlational analyses, to determine the contribution of self-determination to quality of life and examine the relationship between these constructs. 

The renaming of mental retardation: Understanding the change to the term intellectual disability (2007)

Reviews the construct of disability and the change from mental retardation to intellectual disability; reports on why this change is happening and its possible effects on the named population.

Click link for article:[116:TROMRU]2.0.CO;2

Transition and access to the general curriculum (2003)

This chapter discusses the need to align the principles of transition and transition services with the standards-based reform efforts.

Unjustifiable non-therapy: Response to the issue of growth attenuation for young people on the basis of disability (2007)

Reviews the issue of growth attenuation therapy. 

Click link for article:[351:UNRTTI]2.0.CO;2

Using self-monitoring to improve performance in general education high school classes (2002)

Four students with mental retardation were taught self-monitoring skills to enhance their social and academic behavior in the general education curriculum.