Self-Determination and Students with Low Incident Disabilities

by PammyMcB

Campbell-Whatley, Gloria D. (2008). Teaching Students About Their Disabilities: Increasing Self-Determination Skills and Self-Concept. International Journal of Special Education, 23, 137-144.

Dr. Campbell-Whatley is a Professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Campbell-Whatley suggests that students who learn self-determination skills are more successful students than those who do not. Campbell-Whatley suggests that students should begin to learn awareness skills in elementary years, exploration in the middle school years, preparation in the high school years, and placement in the post school years. Campbell-Whatley’s method was to comprise a study by including 13 participants from the mid-west area, who range from elementary to high school. The special education teachers of the students gave the students The Piers Harris Self Concept Scale before and after the implementation of the guided study. The students were taught what it means to have a learning disability, about successful people with learning disabilities, characteristics of learning disabilities, about special education programs, to discover their strengths and weaknesses, how to deal with problems and to self-advocate, and behavior management. The study showed that the students were more aware after the program and their self-esteem was raised. Potential limitations to the study include small sample size, centralized location, and the study does not show whether or not students were able to generalize their newfound skills.

Chambers, Cynthia R.; Lee, Youngsun; Lida, Kerry M.; Saito, Yumiko; Singh, Vandana; and Wehmeyer, Michael L. (2007). Self-Determination: What Do We Know? Where Do We Go?. Exceptionality, 15, 3-15.

The authors suggest though there are numerous studies on self-determination, “there has not been a review of interventions and outcomes measuring global self-determination” (4). The authors gathered data-based, peer-reviewed studies that measure global self-determination. Of the 1000 articles reviewed, the authors included the results of only 31 of the articles. These articles were split up into three categories: nonintervention or descriptive studies, perceptions about self-determination, and efficacy of interventions to promote self-determination. The researchers found that people with disabilities who have high levels of self-determination are more successful than those with low levels of self-determination. Furthermore, those who reside in more restrictive environments have lower levels of self-determination. The research shows though teachers value self-determination, the value is often not translated into practice. The research further shows that there still needs to be more studies done on the impact of interventions on global self-determination. The authors suggest there is a need for teacher training and support, implementation of strategies in the classroom, family education and involvement, promoting self-determination in young students with disabilities.

Marks, Susan U. (2008). Self-Determination for Students with Intellectual Disabilities and Why I Want Educators to Know What It Means. Phi Delta Kappan, 90, 55-58.

Marks asserts self-determination and inclusion are related to “the principles of democratic education” (55). Marks defines self-determination as the ability to make things happen. Marks argues that students with disabilities often want to learn and want to be given the opportunity to make decisions for themselves. Marks further argues that most special education programs do not address self-determination. Therefore, students with disabilities are “an oppressed group” (56). Marks suggests that varied experiences must be introduced to students with intellectual disabilities in order to allow them to become self-determined. Marks asserts this can be done by giving students with disabilities an opportunity to work with a diverse group of people by taking them out of the segregated classrooms and allowing them access to extra-curricular activities. Marks reminds the audience that self-determination is “a lifelong learning process” that follows us into adulthood (58). Marks asserts that educators and parents often teach self-determination skills in a hierarchical pattern, which denies them “the opportunity to express greater self-determination” (58).

McCarthy, Deborah. (2008). Teaching Self-Advocacy to Students with Disabilities. About Campus, 12, 10-16.

McCarthy is a disability educator as well as a former student with a disability. McCarthy differentiates between disability educator and a service provider by suggesting that a disability educator is more of a companion to her students with disabilities. McCarthy also differentiates between the two by suggesting that the service provider only address the immediate needs of the students while a disability educator is more focused on addressing long-term needs. McCarthy argues that higher education requires students with disabilities to be their own advocates; how-ever, many of the students with disabilities going into college lack the skills to be their own advocate. This is supported by Marks article. McCarthy suggests as does Campbell-Whatley in her article that students should be taught self-advocacy beginning in the elementary years instead of only having day-to-day decisions addressed. McCarthy asserts that as disability educators, we need to acknowledge the uncertainty by helping students with disabilities know how to weigh options and take calculated risks. Disability educators should present students with disabilities with options to teach them self-advocacy, and educators should help their students frame new expectations. McCarthy further asserts that educators should “reinforce the notion that effective advocacy is a journey…[and] Interdependence and self-advocacy could coexist” (15).

Turnbull, Ann P. (2006). Self-Determination: Is a Rose by Any Other Name Still a Rose?. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 31, 83-88.

Turnbull and Turnbull’s focus of their paper is to research literature on self-determination funding and look for consistencies and inconsistencies relating to the use of terminology and anticipated outcomes. Turnbull and Turnbull’s research found that students who have been taught self-determination skills in the academic setting have difficulty understanding the use of the term self-determination as it is related to funding into adulthood, and many of the stakeholders are confused by the use of the terms relating to self-determination funding. Turnbull and Turnbull show that terminology is often defined either in a values perspective of a functional perspective. However, Turnbull and Turnbull found that all of the articles agree that the outcome should be autonomy. Therefore, Turnbull and Turnbull suggest that terminology should be kept uniform in order to “enhance individual control,” and students with disabilities and their parents should be properly educated to gain a understanding of terms, which is correlated to an understanding of policy that directs self-determination and autonomy.