Young children develop and learn skills, attitudes, and abilities early in life that lead to the later development of self-determination. Families and teachers are critical in supporting young children to develop and learn these skills and attitudes. Such opportunities involve providing opportunities for young children to make choices, participate in solving simple problems and in making decisions, and learning to self-regulate their own actions. Adults in the lives of young children can foster such “foundational skills for later self-determination” by promoting autonomy and self-regulation in safe environments within the home, school, and community. Some of the materials available from the Beach Center pertaining to young children and their families or teachers include:

  • 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)
  • Ten Steps to Self-Determination (PDF)


During adolescence, young people become more self-determined. This means that they develop the skills, attitudes, and abilities that enable them to be ‘causal agents’ in their own lives. By ‘causal agent,’ we mean making or causing things to happen in one’s life, rather than others or something else causing them to act in other ways. Investigators at the Beach Center have developed interventions and assessments that provide proven methods for teachers and families to support young people to self-regulate learning, set and attain valued goals, self-advocate, regulate their own behavior and, generally, to act in ways that enable them to be causal agents in their lives and to make or cause things to happen in their lives. The research conducted by Beach Center investigators shows clearly that young people with disabilities who leave school as more self-determined young people achieve more positive adult outcomes (better employment and community living outcomes, higher quality of life) and that students who are taught to self-regulate learning and to be more self-determined have better school-related outcomes, including better academic and transition goal attainment and greater access to the general education curriculum. Some of the materials available from the Beach Center pertaining to self-determination in adolescence and transition include:

  • A Teacher’s Guide to implementing SDLMI – Adolescent Version (PDF)
  • Whose Future is it Anyway (PDF)
  • 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)


Beyond volitional action described in transition, self-determination should also be seen as an individual characteristic of people that can be displayed in many aspects of a person’s life. Self-determination is not only disability-related, but it is a construct that applies to each and every person as they move through the day. Adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities often use self-determined learning and strategies to set up an annual plan, obtain and maintain employment, to find a place to live and get involved in their community, and to self-direct decision making in lieu of guardianship.

  •  It’s My Future (PDF)
  • What is Self-Determination and Why is it Important (PDF)
  • The Arc's Self-Determination Scale-Adult Version (PDF)
  • The Arc's Self-Determination Scale-Adult Version: Procedural Guidelines (PDF)

Life Span

Combining self-determination information for children and families, transition, and adulthood collectively provides a lifespan perspective. Some materials about self-determination discuss a continuous effort on the part of individuals, families, and others to promote self-determination 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 self-determined 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 across the ages within the lifespan.

  • SD Across the Lifespan (PDF)
  • Self-Determination and People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (PDF)

One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
Nearly $290 million in financial aid annually
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
23rd nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets," Military Times
KU Today