We understand self-determination to refer to a characteristic of a person that leads them to make choices and decisions based on their own preferences and interests, to monitor and regulate their own actions and to be goal-oriented and self-directing.
The DD Act definition of self-determined actions, as noted below, suggests that both the abilities of the person and the opportunities presented by the environment contribute to the degree of self-determination that can be expressed.
DD Act Self-Determined Actions:
An individual with developmental disabilities, with assistance:
- has the ability and opportunity to make choices and decisions;
- has the ability and opportunity to exercise control over services, supports, and other assistance;
- has the authority to control resources and obtain needed services;
- has the opportunity to participate in and contribute to their communities;
- has the support, including financial, to advocate, develop leadership skills, become trained as a self-advocate, and participate in coalitions and policy-making.
In line with this social approach, we have adopted a social-ecological approach by which we consider self-determination to reflect the interaction of factors in both the personal and environmental domains.
What is Self-Determination and Why is It Important to People with Developmental Disabilities?
Written and Presented by Michael Wehmeyer
Section 1: Expectations
Section 2: Defining Self-Determination
In Section One Dr. Wehmeyer discusses the expectations that are held for people with developmental disabilities as well as setting expectations for self-determination in their lives.
In Section Two, Dr. Wehmeyer discusses the definition of self-determination--“just another word for a life filled with rising expectations, dignity, respect, and opportunities.”
Section 3: Self-Caused Action
Section 4: Enhancing Personal Capacity
In Section Three, Dr. Wehmeyer discusses how self-determination is not about being in control but rather is about causing things to happen in one‘s own life.
In Section Four, Dr. Wehmeyer demonstrates how self-determination enhances the personal capacity of people with developmental disabilities.
Section 5: Ray's Story Questions
In Section Five, Dr. Wehmeyer answers the question, “What is self-determination and why is it important?” using the life story of Ray Gagne. Dr. Wehmeyer‘s lecture concludes with a question and answer session.
What Self-Determination Means to Self-Advocates
We asked self-advocates what self-determination means to them; this is what they told us! Featuring Tia Nelis, Mitch Levitz, Mia Peterson, and Bill Krebs.
Self-advocates tell in their own words, "What is Self-Determination and Why is it Important" -- the first in a series of topic-related videos for the National Gateway to Self-Determination.