Self-determination refers to a set of skills that helps individuals with disabilities control their life and achieve better inclusive outcomes. In special education, self-determination is often conceptualized as an educational outcome, which recognizes the important role that education plays in the development of student self-determination skills. Consequently, a number of educational practices have been developed to teach students with disabilities these essential skills. Some of the practices focus on helping students to acquire and maintain these skills; others focus on developing a conducive environment that allows and encourages individuals with disabilities to apply and exercise self-determination skills. Research has provided empirical evidence to support the need for teaching self-determination skills to students with disabilities. A number of evidence-based practices have been recommended for schools and parents to use in teaching these skills to students with disabilities. Some of the strategies focus on creating conducive environments that provide opportunities for individuals with disabilities to apply and exercise self-determination skills; others provide suggestions to families regarding what they can do to promote self-determination. A particular focus is on instructional practices because of the strong link between education and self-determination. Some popular instructional practices include teaching choice-making, self-management instruction, involving students in the transition planning process, and teaching self-determination skills through a self-determination curriculum such as the ChoiceMaker Curriculum, Steps to Self-Determination, Whose Future Is It Anyway?, Next S.T.E.P. Curriculum, Self-Advocacy Strategy, and Self-Determined Learning Model for Instruction (SDMLI).
Dalun Zhang, Yi-Fan Li, and Melina Cavazos
Transition planning can increase positive post-school outcomes and inclusion for students with intellectual disabilities. Kohler’s Taxonomy for Transition Programming 2.0 is a useful tool for all stakeholders engaged in transition planning for this population. Grounded in research, the Taxonomy highlights five key practices: (a) student-focused planning; (b) student development; (c) interagency collaboration; (d) family involvement; and (e) program structures and attributes. Student-focused planning, and especially the student’s active involvement in transition planning, tend to be forgotten when it comes to students with intellectual disabilities. While transition planning is oriented toward positive post-school outcomes in areas such as employment, independent living, and education, there are still two areas that remain largely ignored for students with intellectual disabilities—self-advocacy and sexuality education. Teachers, parents, and other relevant stakeholders need to provide more opportunities for development of self-advocacy skills, and for sexuality education. Kohler’s Taxonomy for Transition Programming 2.0 can serve as a useful tool when planning on how to integrate these two areas into transition-focused education.
Sara M. Acevedo and Emily A. Nusbaum
A brief history of the emergence of the inclusive schools movement demonstrates its reliance on the pathologizing paradigms that are both the foundations and frameworks of traditional special education. Throughout this recent history, the utilization of a positivist approach to research and practice for autistic students, both those who are segregated and those who have access to mainstream classrooms, has maintained a person-fixing ideology. Instead, a neurodiversity framework adopts an integrative approach, drawing on the psychosocial, cultural, and political elements that effectively disrupt the systematic categorization of alternative neurological and cognitive embodiment(s) and expressions as a host of threatening “disorders” that must be dealt with by cure, training, masking, and/or behavioral interventions to be implemented in the classroom. Centering the personal, lived experiences and perspectives of autistic and otherwise neurodivergent activists and scholars affiliated with the U.S. neurodiversity movement offers an emancipatory lens for representing and embodying neurological differences beyond traditional special education’s deficit-based discourses and practices. This emphasis on political advocacy and cultural self-authorship effectively challenges unexamined, universalizing assumptions about whose bodyminds are “educable” and under what auspices “educability” is conceptualized and written into special-education curricula.
April B. Coughlin
The Disability Studies in Education framework offers the best practices for working with, listening to, and addressing the strengths and needs of students with physical disabilities in schools. Areas covered include reducing barriers to physical and social access, utilizing expertise of students with disabilities to inform practice, reducing stigma while creating disability culture in the classroom, and assisting students with physical disabilities in building self-advocacy skills.