Paul V. Sherlock Center on Disabilities

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Raising the Self-Determined Child

Publications | Resources on Self Determination

Every parent wants their child to lead a happy, productive life. They hope their child will be part of a community, have friends, find meaningful employment, live as independently as possible, and enjoy health and well-being. The self-determination skills children develop early in life can provide a strong foundation for success in adulthood. As with learning any new skill, it takes time and practice. For this reason, parents need to think about ways to promote choice-making, decision-making, goal-setting, and problem-solving throughout the early, middle, and teen years.

As a parent, you may wonder how to help your child learn to control his/her life and future while at the same time keeping him safe from harm. This may be especially true if your child has a disability. Taking risks is often part of taking steps toward independence and self-determination. Some parents do not want their children to take any risks and so they limit their child's experiences to only "safe" ones. The challenge is to manage risk, not avoid it. Risk increases when skill, experience and support are limited. Likewise, increasing your child's skill, experience and/or supports can reduce the risk.

Providing many opportunities for your child to make meaningful decisions that impact his/her daily life is important. Making meaningful decisions starts with careful consideration of the choices that are available. Offering a wide range of choices in matters big and small can help your child discover his/her preferences, interests, strengths and learning styles. This knowledge can help your child build a fulfilling life that reflects his or her own dreams.

Raising the Self-Determined Child: Tips for Parents of Children with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities 2.5 MB (PDF)
Criando a un Niño Autodeterminado: Consejos para Padres de Niños con Discapacidad Intelectual y Desarrollo 1.7 MB (PDF)
Raising the Self-Determined Child - Narrated PowerPoint 38 MB (PPSX)

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Pamphlet Orders:
Raising the Self-Determined Child
: Tips for Parents of Children with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities 4.99 MB (PDF) is available as tri-fold pamphlet Parents and family members may request a complimentary copy for free. Copies are available to agencies on a limited basis at no cost while supplies last (shipping fees may apply).
Requests can be made using the Sherlock Center Publication Order Form or by calling (401) 456-8072.
Print copies of the pamphlet in Spanish are pending.

Factsheets by Topic:

Choice Making 892 kb (PDF)
Elección de Decisión 36 kb (PDF)

Decision Making 683 kb (PDF)
Tomando Decisiones 36 kb (PDF)

Goal Setting 231 kb (PDF
Establecimiento de Metas 231 kb (PDF)

Problem Solving 893 kb (PDF)
Resolución de Problemas 37 kb (PDF)


Print Resources 921 kb (PDF)
Recursos Sugeridos 159 kb (PDF)

Self-Determined Learning Model for Early Elementary Students - A Parent's Guide* -Beach Center on Disabilities, University of Kansas
This book provides a guide for problem-solving and goal-setting for parents to use with children.

Fostering Self-Determination among Children with Disabilities-Ideas from Parents for Parents* - Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison
This guide provides a menu of ideas developed by parents for parents to promote self-determination for children with disabilities.

*These publications are available for loan from the Resource Library at the Sherlock Center.

I'm Determined
The I'm Determined website, sponsored by the Virginia Department of Education Self-Determination Project, provides many tips, tools, and videos related to promoting self-determination in school-age youth with disabilities.

National Gateway to Self-Determination
The National Gateway to Self-Determination website contains articles, videos, and other materials for families to learn about and promote self-determination with their children.

Whose Future is it Anyway? (PDF)
Whose Future is it Anyway? Adapted Literature Verrsion 879 kb (PDF)

National Resource Center for Supported Decision-Making
This website contains many resources on supported decision-making including personal stories, publications, webinars, and event announcements. The website is a project of Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities and KU Life Span Institute.

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