Self determination and self-advocacy are such important topics that a timeline of skill development starting in elementary school and extending through high school is included. This Self-Determination Timeline does not, of course, address the needs of every single student who goes through the transition planning process – every child is different, with particular needs, preferences and interests. Hopefully this timeline will give you a basic framework to help support your child’s development of self-determination skills. Best practices that both you and your child’s educators can take to promote self-determination are included. And yes, ideally it all starts pretty early in your child’s life (but don’t let that stop you from getting started right now no matter how old your child is).

Self-Determination Timeline

  • Elementary
    • Goals for Student
      • Identify interests, likes and dislikes.
      • Recognize that everyone is a decision-maker.
      • Recognize that there are choices to consider when making decisions and that decisions have consequences.
    • Educator Actions
      • Integrate self-determination activities into the curriculum where the child has the opportunity to learn and communicate about himself.
      • Offer the child as many opportunities as possible to make choices for herself (moving developmentally from small to large choices).
    • Family Actions
      • Offer the child as many opportunities as possible to make choices for himself (moving developmentally from small to large choices).
      • Explore the “why’s” of making choices.
      • Encourage the child to perform basic daily life skills as independently as possible, even if it takes a long time (there will be a payoff down the line!).
      • Let the child learn the consequence of making mistakes – e.g., breaking things, losing things, making inappropriate choices.
  • Middle School
    • Goals for Student
      • Demonstrate behavior and decisions that reflect interests, likes and dislikes.
      • Recognize that self-knowledge is helpful when making decisions and plans.
      • Demonstrate behaviors that reflect self-confidence.
      • Explain why education and career plans are important.
    • Educator Actions
      • Work on maintaining and generalizing self-awareness and communication skills.
      • Teach the child to set IEP and other goals, based on what he knows about himself.
      • Work with the child to problem-solve while working on self-designed goals.
      • Help the child understand that going to school is his “job;” relate good performance in school with good job performance.
      • Increase the child’s exposure to and participation in the community.
      • Have the child take learning styles inventories, so she will better understand how she learns.
    • Family Actions
      • Help the child better understand her disabilities… and her strengths and interests.
      • Encourage the child to set goals for herself and to communicate those goals to others.
      • Support the child’s ability to make decisions.
      • Help prepare the child for IEP team meetings – share information ahead of time and practice participation skills.
      • Give the child meaningful responsibilities to carry out at home.
      • Increase the child’s exposure to and participation in the community.
  • High School/Postsecondary
    • Goals for Student
      • Integrate a wide range of interests into personal learning and career goals.
      • Plan and follow steps to make effective decisions and achieve goals.
      • Evaluate how one’s self-concept can impact educational and vocational success.
      • Explain how personal priorities impact one’s career decision-making.
    • Educator Actions
      • Work toward the young adult designing and actively participating in IEP meetings; have the student choose goals, express goals and take action.
      • Have the young adult complete vocational assessments and/or interest inventories and incorporate the findings into the student’s IEP.
      • Focus on problem-solving, decision-making and goal-setting skills that will be used in further schooling or in the workplace.
      • Continue to maintain, generalize, and expand all self-determination, self-advocacy and communication skills that the young adult already possesses.
      • Increase the young adult’s exposure to and participation in the community.
    • Family Actions
      • Support the young adult’s ability to make his own decisions.
      • Practice participating in IEP meetings and interacting with teachers, employers, and professors.
      • Help the young adult describe his disability, medical needs and the ways he can be successfully supported in different environments (i.e., accommodations, etc.)
      • If not discussed already, talk about the young adult’s legal rights related to her disability.
      • Promote the young adult’s independence and mobility – teach her how to ride public transportation, how to read maps, etc.
      • Increase the young adult’s exposure to and participation in the community.

TOOL

For a comprehensive list of activities you can do with your elementary and/or middle school child to help them prepare for transition, use our K-12 Career Explorer.