Self-Determination: A Family Affair


  • Michael L. Wehmeyer

    Corresponding author
    1. University of Kansas
    • Department of Special Education, Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities, Beach Center on Disability, 1200 Sunnyside Ave., Room 3136, Lawrence, KS 66045 (

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Due to the advocacy of families during the 20th century, children and youth with disabilities gained access to a free, appropriate education. Although people with disabilities have made significant strides in the past quarter century, in the United States and across the world, people with significant disabilities continue to experience disproportionate levels of unemployment, have few options other than to live with their families, and experience a diminished quality of life. To address this, the educational system has focused on supports and services to ensure that young people with disabilities transition from school to adulthood more successfully. Within these efforts, the promotion of self-determination for secondary students with disabilities has become best practice, and there exist evidence-based methods, materials, and strategies to achieve this outcome. This article discusses the importance of self-determination for youth with disabilities to achieve successful lives and the important role that families play in that process.