What was once a term associated primarily with transitions from school to adult services, self-determination has become recognized as a critical component of high-quality programming for persons with disabilities across the lifespan and in a range of contexts. On the surface, the concept of self-determination seems simple: provide opportunities for students to exercise their free will and make choices for themselves. After reading this book, however, family members and professionals will move beyond the basic concepts of independent choice making and develop an appreciation of other critical components of self-determination, including problem solving, goal setting, risk taking, self-evaluation and instruction, self-advocacy, and much more. This book is a comprehensive guide for research-based strategies, such as how to prompt choice making, to more complex strategies like facilitating independent learning with antecedent cue regulation. At a time when practitioners and researchers are struggling to bridge the gap between research and practice, Wehmeyer et al. provide this helpful, evidenced-based volume to guide service providers through a range of topics and strategies in a straightforward manner. This volume is a welcome addition to the evidence-based series What Works for Special-Needs Learners (edited by Karen Harris & Steve Graham).
Promoting Self-Determination in Students With Developmental Disabilities has 16 chapters organized under main sections that can be assigned readings for a class or a quick reference when needed. Wehmeyer et al. begin the book by reviewing theories and psychological constructs of self-determination and move quickly into more applied classroom and life-relevant material. Subsequent chapters focus on specific topics that fit under the umbrella of self-determination and include thorough reviews of the available research, presented in a way that persons without research training can understand. Each chapter includes clear directions and discussions about implications for practice and students. Although this volume is a “must have” for teachers in the field, it is also a valuable resources for researchers interested in the large body of intervention literature aimed at exploring and increasing self-determined behavior in students.
This book is applicable for persons providing services for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities of all ages. Although the research the authors review tends to be validated with students in secondary schools, the majority of the chapters cover topics that should be embedded into personnel preparation programs starting with early intervention. Educators and families working with persons at all stages of life will benefit from the thought provoking chapters on teaching problem solving, goal setting, and attainment; antecedent and consequent event regulation; and implications of technology and universal design on the self-determined behavior of students. Wehmeyer and colleagues have also thoughtfully included reproducible forms, such as work improvement contracts, student worksheets for a range of self-instruction strategies, teacher guides for models of self-determined learning, and many more that will facilitate the ease of implementing these research-based strategies in the classroom. These forms ensure that teachers' copies of this book will become a well-guarded resource.
Two of the chapters that are particularly relevant for students studying to be early-childhood and school-age special education teachers are Chapter 2 (“Assessing Preferences and Promoting Choice Making”) and Chapter 5 (“Teaching Self-Advocacy”). Assessing preferences and promoting choice making is arguably an important starting point for promoting self determination. Students will gain useful perspectives from reading about the unnecessarily limited opportunities students with intellectual and developmental disabilities typically have to make choices and how the choices often made by caregivers do not necessarily coincide with individuals' actual preferences. After highlighting the relevant issues, the reader is provided with multiple modes and evidence-based strategies for facilitating choice making for students with varying ability levels.
One of the most powerful chapters in the book is Chapter 5, “Teaching Self- Advocacy.” When teachers are deciding what skills to teach their students, the ability to “assert” themselves is not typically included. Wehmeyer et al. explain that it is critical for students to learn the core skill of assertiveness, to express themselves, and to advocate for their own rights. Evidence-based strategies are provided for professionals and families to empower students to learn the critical skills of refusal, requesting a change in behavior, or expressing an unpopular opinion. Although these skills are of obvious importance to persons in middle school through adulthood, early-childhood educators will also benefit from reflecting on the importance of teaching assertiveness to students. Research-based discussions about assertiveness training and related issues such as rights, responsibilities, conversation skills, listening, team work, and conflict resolution will benefit teachers and family members committed to helping children with developmental disabilities learn to speak up for themselves.
The final section of the book includes helpful chapters on increasing student involvement. Chapter 10 (“Technology and Universal Design to Promote Self- Determination”) includes information about cognitive accessibility, with a specific focus on promoting independence of students with technology. Teachers and families will appreciate the up-to-date overview of various electronic devices, software, and use of the Internet to facilitate the self-determination of students and decrease student dependence on others. The book concludes with Chapter 11, “Student Involvement in Educational Planning,” which includes an exciting discussion about person-centered planning, with specific focus on the role of student in individualized educational plan meetings (IEP). A review of the literature outlining the benefits of including students in the IEP process is provided, followed by strategies for increasing student participation. The chapter concludes with inspiring information about student-led IEPs and student-directed transition-planning programs, such as Next S.T.E.P.: Student Transition and Educational Planning and TAKE CHARGE.
It is time to add self-determination to the list of topics required for the preparation of personnel in special education. Although the research and strategies compiled into this book would justify presenting self-determination as a stand-alone topic, the philosophies and ideas presented in this book will become embedded ideally into all aspects of personnel preparation programs. Faculty members in teacher preparation programs will find substantial evidence-based material to share with their students and stimulate important conversations about the role of self-determination in the lives of persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Teachers already in the field will appreciate this addition to the What Works for Special Needs Learners series because it makes research accessible and the many reproducible forms and worksheets are an asset. Last, persons interested in this fascinating research area will want to add this volume to their shelves. Promoting Self-Determination in Students With Developmental Disabilities is a powerful resource that encourages in its readers a commitment to facilitate self-determined behaviors in persons with developmental and intellectual disabilities in all aspects of their lives, from the small, everyday decisions to the big, life- guiding choices.