How important is it to you to make choices in your life? How would you feel if someone else made those choices for you? What if the person had power over you instead of with you? Imagine how you would respond.
Parents and professionals, with good intentions, often attempt to protect people with disabilities. They make all the decisions for a person.
But it is not working.
People with disabilities are telling us they want to be in control of their lives. Some tell us in a way that is acceptable to others. Some tell us in a way many might find uncomfortable. Either way, we need to listen and help others hear and understand their requests.
Self-determination, in its simplest form, gives each person a voice and right to make decisions in their life. Self-determination also means one lives with the natural consequences of choices made.
We should all decide for ourselves…
Some people will need support to make these decisions. Support may also be needed to reach goals. This should not be seen as a weakness. It should not matter the type or frequency of support. We all need help in life.
Think for a moment of the help you need—a mechanic, hairdresser, banker, etc. Knowing the help you need and who to seek it from is a great skill. In fact, interdependence will lead a person to independence as an adult.
Are risks involved? Yes. And there is dignity of risk. Taking calculated risks is a natural part of life. It lends itself to personal growth. It lends itself to freedom. It gives people a chance to succeed or to fail with dignity.
Children should start working on self-determination skills early in life. The choices one makes, attitudes and skills needed to live a self-determined life, are always developing. You can help your child by giving them a growing number of chances to make their own decisions.
For ideas, check out the Fostering Self-Determination in Children and Youth by Parents for Parents. The guide offers a menu of ideas. And this page on helping your child build their independence has relevant and helpful information.
Understanding the concept of self-determination and fostering skills and attitudes needed to lead a self-determined life will put you and your child in control of their life path.
Search this site using the term "self-determination" to find and read many of our parents' blogs on self-determination.