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Benefits for Students with Disabilities

The Meaning and Importance of Self Determination

In Children

Every individual has the right to make decisions for himself; he has the right to make choices that affect him and the independence to consciously take actions for him. This freedom of choice to make individual choices for oneself is called self-determination. According to Steadward, Watkinson and Wheeler (2004), A self-determined person is an individual who

“Knows what he wants and how to get it. Self-determined people make choices in their lives and have control over decision-making processes and outcomes (Wehyemer 1992 1996a) ” (p, 214)

Teaching self-determination skills to students is important as it structures an individual’s future successes and failures. In an educational institution, an instructor can teach self-determination to students by keeping small goals that a student is asked to complete within a stipulated period of time. (Doll, Zucker and Brehm,2004).

This process of step-by-step development of resilience and persistence in achieving goals helps in developing self-determination in students. There are several advantages to encouraging self-determination in students research has found that

“Increased student self-determination is positively related to quality engagement in learning activities, higher levels of conceptual learning and increased retention of learned knowledge. (Ames, 1992a, 1992b, p.12).”

Researchers have also found that children who are self-determined are more curious, love challenges, have greater self-efficacy and strive to learn new skills, to summarize they are better able to learn and incorporate what is being taught in the classroom as a self-determined student perceives education as challenging and interesting (Deci & Ryan , 1985).

Self Determination Skills in Students with Disabilities

The lives of people with disabilities is a particularly challenging one, as they have to develop self-reliance despite the disabilities that they have to contend with on a daily basis and when they strive to educate themselves, they have already demonstrated their courage and determination to the world .

However, it is an uphill task for such students to understand and assimilate education, as their particular disability sets the limitation on their ability to learn in a common classroom and they could get disheartened. It becomes imperative that they are taught self-determination skill early in life, though experts believe that self-determination is a lifelong learning process, Odom Horner and Snell (2009)believe that

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“Self-determination is developmental and that is instructional opportunities for enhancing self-determination skills such as choice making goal setting, problem-solving self-regulation and self-management must start at an early age and infused throughout the day”(380)

Methods of Including Self-determination in the

Curricula of Students with Disabilities

Two important curriculum programs that have been successful in promoting self-determination are :

  1. The Choicemaker series(Martin and Marshall 1995 ) which promotes three instructional series for promoting self-determination through “Choosing goals on personal educational career and daily the living levels. ii) Expressing these goals at IEP meetings .iii) Self-monitoring tactics, which requires a student to monitor their task, evaluate their performance and determine whether their self-management strategies for successful or not and to make improvisations based on this analysis. ” (Shapiro and Kratochwill,2000, p.226)
  2. Self Determined Learning model of instruction (Mithaug, Wehmeyer, Agran, Martin & Powers, 1998). This model gives “Self-monitoring a pivotal role in developing a curricula for children and requires that self-monitoring be used as an assessment strategy for students to self-evaluate their progress and revise their goals and action places as needed.(Mithaug et. al, 1998). These two curriculum program have been created in accordance with the stipulations of (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) IDEA” (Shapiro and Kratochwill,2000, p.226).
  3. It has been observed that teaching students to self-monitor self-regulate, self-learn and self-advocate also helps the students with disabilities to assimilate self-determination skill at a faster pace.
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Inculcating Self-Determination into the Curriculum

Athealth.com believes that self-determination should be inculcated in the early years of students with disabilities and demonstrates the various methods of including self-determination in their curriculum:

“Early Elementary” Students are encouraged to make choices from limited options. They are encouraged to solve their problems aloud and shown the outcome of their choice and how it corresponds to a given standard (athealth.com, n.d..)

“Late Elementary and Middle School” Students are encouraged to set academic and personal goals and are taught how to evaluate options on the basis of its advantages and disadvantages. They are also taught to make improvisation to improve their performance (athealth.com, n.d.)

“Junior High and High School” Students are taught to make academic, post-school and day-to-day targets and are taught “to change long-term targets to short-term goals “(athealth.com, n.d. ).

Conclusion

Students with disabilities have to meet several challenges post-school. However, if they are taught self-determination skills in school they become more confident self-reliant and independent.

In fact, it was found “in a study of eighty samples by Wehyemer and Schwartz (1997) that students in high self-determination groups earned twice as much and were eighty percent more likely to be employed than students who were not”. “They were also more independent , lived separately ,were employed with benefits, vacations and sick leave”(Wehyemer et.al 2004).

Kochhar-Bryant, Bassett and Webb believe that though self-determination skills can be taught through “curricula, strategies and opportunities for school reform” it is a concerted effort of educators and parents that will in actuality help a student with disabilities to implement self-determination skills and lead a life of dignity and independence in his post-school life (2008).

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