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Kansas University Center for Developmental Disabilities

Self-Determination


KUCDD faculty are engaged in multiple projects aimed at enhancing the self-determination of people with developmental disabilities

A student stands before paths of arrows pointing in different directions.One project providing activities to promote self-determination is the OSEP-funded outreach project, Beyond High School: Replicating a Multistage Model Infusing Self-determination into 18 to 21 Services. The Beyond High School model focuses on increasing student involvement in transition planning and implementation. Under the direction of KUCDD Director Michael Wehmeyer, KUCDD staff have been conducting a multi-district replication of the model to achieve student involvement in transition planning and increased self-determination through student-directed learning, goal setting, monitoring, and attainment. Project activities involve the replication of the Beyond High School model with students ages 18-21 with cognitive and developmental disabilities across seven school districts. Beyond High School links the use of the student-directed curriculum Whose Future Is It Anyway? with the teacher's use of the Self-Determined Learning Model of Instruction in conjunction with informal student-directed planning meetings.

"Cover of Whose Future is it Anyway? curriculum guide."Beyond High School shifts the center of control from teacher-delivered instruction to student-directed learning as students are supported in planning, performing and monitoring their own learning and goal attainment with regard to desired transition outcomes. To date, more than 50 students with intellectual and developmental disabilities have been involved.

Another major project is the NIDRR-funded Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Advancing Cognitive Technologies. Michael Wehmeyer is a co-PI for the RERC-ACT and the KUCDD is conducting a randomized-trial, multi-site study of the impact of cognitively accessible technology on the self-determination of students with intellectual disability. Participants are utilizing cognitively accessible web and PC-based technology to assist in learning to self-direct transition planning. To date, about 200 students with intellectual disabilities are involved in the research study, with 100 in each of the control and treatment groups. We are in the second of two years of intervention before students graduate. Upon graduation, we will measure changes in self-determination and follow up with students to determine how the intervention to promote self-determination impacted adult outcomes.

A third large scale project is the NIDRR-funded Disability and Rehabilitation Research Project on Self-Determination. Despite the wide visibility of the importance of self-determination to achieve positive life outcomes for youth with disabilities, there is very little research to document both the capacity of interventions designed to promote such outcomes to actually do so and of the impact of such interventions (and enhanced self-determination) on outcomes for youth. Researchers at KUCDD are conducting a project to address this gap in the knowledge base. The project is conducting a study examining the impact of interventions to promote the self-determination of students with high incidence (learning disabilities, mild intellectual disabilities, emotional/behavioral disorders, etc.) and low incidence disabilities (moderate to severe intellectual disabilities, multiple disabilities, severe autism).

Researchers at KUCDD are conducting a study to examine the impact of instruction to promote self-determination for youth with high-incidence disabilities. The study is examining self-determination as both a dependent and independent variable. It will provide data to validate the self-determination construct, to show the efficacy of intensity of treatment to promote self-determination on that outcome (e.g., promoting self-determination), and examine the impact of promoting self-determination on a wide array of adult outcomes for youth, including employment, independent living, and quality of life. The study is using a randomized trial, placebo control group design in which 300 students with high-incidence disabilities are randomly assigned (by school district) to one of three groups (n = 100 per group). The multiple levels of the treatment involve a placebo control group (e.g., students participate in a treatment, but one that is not anticipated to impact the outcomes of self-determination), a student involvement only intervention grouping in which students participate only in activities designed to promote their involvement in educational planning and decision-making, and a comprehensive treatment group in which students receive multiple treatments (e.g., student involvement, instruction infused into all courses, etc.). Students involved are high school sophomores with high-incidence disabilities (learning disabilities, mild intellectual disabilities, emotional/behavioral disorders, etc.).

We are collecting multiple measures of self-determination (The Arc’s Self-Determination Scale, the AIR Self-Determination Scale, and the Choice Maker Self-Determination Assessment).   All students are assessed at baseline (prior to intervention), and annually through their final three years of school. We are also collecting data fidelity of treatment using appropriate instruments related to the interventions implemented. Finally, we are collecting data on other variables hypothesized to impact self-determination and adult outcomes (level of intelligence, number of vocational courses, etc.) and on demographic variables in general. At the end of each student's senior year we collect data on self-determination for the final time, and will examine differences between groups on self-determination as a function of the treatment group and other relevant variables. This will provide data on the validity of the SD construct, and will provide data with regard to the impact of interventions, at a high and low intensity level, to promote self-determination on student self-determination. Then, during the final two years of the project, we will conduct a follow-up study of all students involved in the intervention phase of the study to determine the impact of self-determination on adult outcomes, including quality of life, employment outcomes, independent living and community inclusion outcomes, and so forth. We will collect follow-up data one and two years after graduation for all students. The second component of the study involves an evaluation of the Beyond High School model for students with more severe disabilities.

KUCDD also engages in multiple technical assistance and training and information-dissemination activities. The Beach Center on Disability has a portion of its web page devoted to dissemination of information about self-determination, including free products such as The Arc's Self-Determination Scale and a full-text version of Self-Determination Across the Life Span: Independence and Choice for People with Disabilities, edited by Deanna J. Sands and KUCDD Director Michael Wehmeyer.