Self-determination, or “being the boss of your own life,” is an important skill for all teens to learn. To help build independence, it’s especially important for parents of teens with diverse abilities to foster self-determination skills in their kids. These skills include:

·      Speaking up or advocating for themselves

·      Making choices based on personal preferences and interests

·      Participating in decisions that affect the quality of their lives

·      Personal goal setting

·      Solving problems that act as barriers to achieving goals

·      Self-regulating and self-managing day-to-day actions

Self-determination skills help students make their own decisions, take responsibility for their actions, advocate for themselves and ultimately lead independent and fulfilling lives.


The following ideas can help parents build self-determination in their kids:

·      Communicate high expectations to your child early and often.

·      Encourage students to participate in and lead their own IEP meetings.

·      Encourage kids to say what they like and don’t like.

·      Teach kids to accept responsibility for the decisions they make and learn from their mistakes.

·      Let your student be as independent as possible at home and in the community.

·      Teach your child problem-solving strategies by identifying the problem, brainstorming solutions, and weighing the pros and cons.

·      Discuss issues related to living independently, like paying bills and living within a budget.

·      Allow your child to speak for herself.

·      Connect your student to activities with peers with and without disabilities that share similar interests.

·      Advocate for your child to be included in general education with peers without disabilities, when appropriate.

Check out the HDESD Transition Network website and “Planning my way to work – a transition guide for students with disabilities leaving high school” for more tips and information on helping students with diverse abilities lead independent and productive lives after high school.