Self-Determination Skills

Students cheering at the BC Regional Braille Challenge.

Image shows a logo with an award ribbon.Self-determination is a combination of “skills, knowledge, and beliefs and enables a person to engage in goal-directed, self-regulated, autonomous behaviour” (Field, et al., 1998, p. 2). Self-Determination skills include self-knowledge, self-advocacy, decision-making, and problem solving (Wolffe & Rosenblum, 2014).

Check out the Self-Determination Skills section in #Outreaching - the blog of the PRCVI Outreach Team.


Connections to the BC Curriculum – Core Competencies

The British Columbia K-12 Curriculum emphasizes Personal Awareness and Responsibility as a core competency with the goal that all students “understand and take responsibility for their actions, including their learning; [...] make constructive and ethical decisions about their personal and social behaviour; and […] recognize and accept consequences, understanding how their actions affect their own well-being and that of others.”

The curriculum identifies three facets of personal awareness and responsibility:

  • Self-Determination
  • Self-Regulation
  • Well-Being

Self-Determination Skills – Students with Visual Impairments

Students with visual impairments access and interact with the world in unique ways. Self-Determination Skills are critical for these learners, as they need to possess effective self-advocacy toolkits to ensure that they obtain the specialized tools, learning materials, and programming supports to thrive at home, at school, and in their communities. Direct instruction in these skills promotes independence and self-advocacy and addresses areas where students with visual impairments may be at higher risk for greater dependence on others (Wilton & MacCuspie, 2017):

  • Increased risk of over helping or restricting action by peers, caregivers, and school staff, negatively impacting self-efficacy, independence levels, and expectations of personal control over outcomes (see Online Resources for 19 Ways to Step Back).
  • Inaccurate or incomplete understanding of cause-and-effect relationships in the environment if functional routines are inaccessible.
  • Fewer opportunities for meaningful decision making that impacts the course and quality of the student’s life.

Examples of Self-Determination Skills

  • Making meaningful choices in activities or contexts that are relevant to the student (e.g., choosing an outfit to wear to school).
  • Can articulate details about one’s visual impairment and communicate functional implications for informational and advocacy purposes.
  • Understands provincial, federal, and international legal frameworks and conventions on the rights of persons with disabilities and how these are relevant.

Resources to Support Instruction

PRCVI Library Catalogue

American Printing House (2012). The Transition Tote System: Navigating the Rapids of Life. Louisville, KY: American Printing House for the Blind.  [Resource Kit]

Cleveland, J. (2007). Empowered: An activity based self-determination curriculum for students with visual impairments. Austin, TX: Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. [Professional Text & Resource]

Maffei, P. (2014). Quick & Easy Expanded Core Curriculum: The Hatlen Center Guide. Louisville, KY: American Printing House for the Blind. [Professional Text]

Web-Based Resources

APH Family Connect (2019). Self-Determination Skills and the Expanded Core Curriculum. Retrieved from

CNIB Score Program. CNIB’s SCORE (Skills, Confidence, and Opportunities in Recreation and Education) program is an all-expenses-paid, two-week program for youth ages 16-21 across Canada. The program is designed to foster pre-employment, leadership, and post-secondary readiness skills. Retrieved from

Image shows the top of a poster with the title 19 Ways to Step BackHudson, L. J. (n.d.). Promoting Independence: The 19 Ways to Step Back. Retrieved from

  • Check out the Perkins School site for a web version of this classic resource. Share with educational teams, families, students - anyone promoting independence and self-determination!

Wehmeyer, M. L., Davis, S., & Palmer, S B. (n.d.). 10 Steps to Independence: Promoting Self-Determination in the Home. Retrieved from

Image shows the Blind Beginnings LogoBlind Beginnings - Youth Leadership & Pre-Employment Program

  • This weekend training for older teens and young adults with visual impairments offers opportunities to develop leadership skills including communication, personal budgeting, and public speaking.

Eyes on Success Podcast

  • Eyes On Success is a podcast focusing on technology, services, and daily living tips for people with visual impairments. Each episode is a success story about accomplishments in academics, employment, sports, or pastimes or descriptions of aids that enable visually impaired people to achieve goals.


Field, S., Martin, J., Miller, R., Ward, M., & Wehmeyer, M. (1998). A practical guide for teaching self-determination. Reston, VA: Council for Exceptional Children.

Wilton, A. P. & MacCuspie, P. A. (2017). Self-Determination. In M. C. Holbrook, C. Kamei-Hannan, & T. McCarthy (eds.). Foundations of Education, Volume II: Instructional Strategies for Teaching Children and Youths with Visual Impairments (pp. 875-913). New York, NY: AFB Press.

Wolffe, K. E. & Rosenblum, L. P. (2014). Self-determination. In C. B. Allman & S. Lewis (eds.) ECC Essentials: Teaching the expanded core curriculum to students with visual impairments (pp. 470-509). New York, NY: AFB Press.

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