Young children develop and learn skills, attitudes, and abilities early in life that lead to the later development of self-determination. Families and teachers are critical in supporting young children to develop and learn these skills and attitudes. Such opportunities involve providing opportunities for young children to make choices, participate in solving simple problems and in making decisions, and learning to self-regulate their own actions. Adults in the lives of young children can foster such “foundational skills for later self-determination” by promoting autonomy and self-regulation in safe environments within the home, school, and community. Some of the materials available from the Beach Center pertaining to young children and their families or teachers include:

  • A Parent’s Guide to the Self-Determined Learning Model for Early Elementary Students (PDF)
  • A Teacher’s Guide to Implementing the SDLMI for Elementary Teachers (PDF)
  • Ten Steps to Self-Determination (PDF)


During adolescence, young people become more self-determined. This means that they develop the skills, attitudes, and abilities that enable them to be ‘causal agents’ in their own lives. By ‘causal agent,’ we mean making or causing things to happen in one’s life, rather than others or something else causing them to act in other ways. Investigators at the Beach Center have developed interventions and assessments that provide proven methods for teachers and families to support young people to self-regulate learning, set and attain valued goals, self-advocate, regulate their own behavior and, generally, to act in ways that enable them to be causal agents in their lives and to make or cause things to happen in their lives. The research conducted by Beach Center investigators shows clearly that young people with disabilities who leave school as more self-determined young people achieve more positive adult outcomes (better employment and community living outcomes, higher quality of life) and that students who are taught to self-regulate learning and to be more self-determined have better school-related outcomes, including better academic and transition goal attainment and greater access to the general education curriculum. Some of the materials available from the Beach Center pertaining to self-determination in adolescence and transition include:

  • A Teacher’s Guide to implementing SDLMI – Adolescent Version (PDF)
  • Whose Future is it Anyway (PDF)
  • The Self-Determination Inventory Self-Report
  • The Arc's Self-Determination Scale-Adolescent Version (PDF)
  • The Arc's Self-Determination Scale-Adolescent Version: Procedural Guidelines (PDF)


Many adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities have had limited life opportunities that enabled them to become more self-determined. They have too often attended schools that segregate them and limit opportunities to engage in actions (goal setting, problem solving, self-regulation, etc.) that enhance ones self-determination. Often the very systems created to serve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are dependency-creating, emphasize segregation and separateness, and limit opportunities for people to express preference and make choices. The rate of young adults subjected to guardianship and, thus, limited opportunities to engage in decisions that impact one’s life, has tripled in the past decades. Researchers at the Beach Center engage in research and model development to promote outcomes such as more positive employment or health outcomes, active engagement in life planning and supported decision-making, and similar roads to full participation and citizenship by promoting and enhancing self-determination and enabling people to become causal agents in their own lives. Some of the materials available from the Beach Center pertaining to promoting more positive life outcomes through self-determination for adults with disabilities include:

  •  It’s My Future (PDF)
  • What is Self-Determination and Why is it Important (PDF)
  • The Arc's Self-Determination Scale-Adult Version (PDF)
  • The Arc's Self-Determination Scale-Adult Version: Procedural Guidelines (PDF)

Life Span

The Beach Center on Disability is one center within the Schiefelbusch Center on Life Span Studies, so it is not surprising that researchers in the Beach Center are focused on enhancing and promoting self-determination across the life span. From childhood to adulthood, research conducted by Beach Center investigators has shown that promoting self-determination is a critical component of enabling and empowering people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to improve their quality of life and life satisfaction and to live rich, full lives in their communities. Some of the materials available from the Beach Center website that focus on promoting self-determination across the life span include:

  • SD Across the Lifespan (PDF)
  • Self-Determination and People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (PDF)

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