This week, you read several articles that address a population much different than a lot of people i

This week, you read several articles that address a population much different than a lot of people in our field are used to dealing with. While adults warrant different considerations, we should always be interacting with children as future adults. Consider the following scenarios and indicate how you would respond to each. You will want to include any references or Ethics Codes used in your assessment. 

  1. A 16-year old in a group home you work for hates peas. However, the rotating menu has them being served once per week. According to the dietician at the group home, he must eat them to qualify for dessert or treats due to strict nutritional guidelines.  The Group Home Manager supports this decision, indicating “We all have to learn to do things we do not like to do”.
  2. A 40-year old man with intellectual disabilities  with was recently ordered by a physician to quit drinking. His support coordinator has advised all staff working with him to not allow him to purchase alcohol. On a social skills outing with the individual, he asks to stop for a 6-pack to bring home. 
  3. A 29-year old with intellectual disabilities woman in supported living was recently reported missing when her caseworker visited at 9 PM for a wellness check. Around 6 AM, she returned home and explained that she was out hoping to have sex with a neighborhood man. Her caseworker recommends that the woman be placed in a more structured environment, such as a group home, to protect her from sexual assault or other sexually related consequences. 





In the pursuit of efficient habilitation, many service providers exercise a great deal of control over
the lives of clients with developmental disabilities. For example, service providers often choose the
client’s habilitative goals, determine the daily schedule, and regulate access to preferred activities.
This paper examines the advantages and disadvantages of allowing clients to exercise personal
liberties, such as the right to choose and refuse daily activities. On one hand, poor choices on the
part of the client could hinder habilitation. On the other hand, moral and legal issues arise when
the client’s right to choice is abridged. Recommendations are offered to protect both the right to
habilitation and the freedom to choose.
DESCRIPTORS: developmentally disabled, ethics, client rights, choice behavior, mentally re-


In the pursuit of efficient habilitation, many ser-
vice providers exercise a great deal of control over
the lives of clients with developmental disabilities
(Guess, Benson, & Siegel-Causey, 1985; Kishi,
Teelucksingh, Zollers, Park-Lee, & Meyer, 1988;
Turnbull & Turnbull, 1985). Service providers often
choose the dient’s habilitative goals, choose their
work or day treatment setting, impose inflexible
daily activity schedules, and regulate access to pre-
ferred activities. The choices made by the service
provider may indeed promote habilitation, but these
choices may not reflect the client’s preferences. The
purpose of this paper is to discuss the relation
between the right to habilitation and the client’s
right to personal liberties. The following questions
will be addressed: What does the “right to habil-
itation” mean for people with developmental dis-
abilities? What are personal liberties? What are the
advantages and disadvantages of allowing citizens
with developmental disabilities to exercise their per-
sonal liberties? How might service providers better
protect both the right to habilitation and the free-
dom to choose?

Please address all correspondence to Diane J. Bannerman
at the Department of Human Development and Family Life,
1034 Haworth, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas

Habilitation involves teaching the skills needed

to live as independently as possible (Favell, Favell,
Riddle, & Risley, 1984). A long history of inad-
equate services for people with developmental dis-
abilities has been the impetus for numerous class
action suits and legislative reforms guaranteeing
these citizens a general right to habilitation. In the
most well known of the class

Exceptional Children, Vol. 60, No. 3, pp. 215-225.
© 1993 The Council for Exceptional Children.

Self-Determination for Persons with
Disabilities: Choice, Risk, and Dignity


University of Missouri-Columbia

ABSTRACT: Self-determination refers to the ability to consider options and make appropriate
choices in the home, at school, at work, and during leisure time. A growing philosophical and legal
base supports full participation of persons with disabilities in natural settings in the community,
and empirical studies document the abilities of persons with severe and multiple disabilities to
learn to make choices. Follow-up studies indicate that the majority of special education graduates
have not made a successful transition from school to life as an adult in the community. Many remain
underemployed or unemployed for reasons associated with lack of decision-making skills. This
article presents a rationale for including self-determination in special education curricula. The
article describes a framework for providing choices, based on an analysis of risk and benefits.
Assessment approaches and teaching strategies are offered.

D Self-determination is the ability of a person to
consider options and make appropriate choices
regarding residential life, work, and leisure time.
Teaching self-determination skills to people with
disabilities is receiving increased attention for
several reasons. First, there is a growing philo­
sophical base of support for providing choice op­
portunities to people with disabilities.
Professional literature clearly indicates that nor­
malization and quality of life are closely associ­
ated with one’s ability to choose from a range of
life options (Blatt, 1987; Kishi, Teelucksingh,
Zollers, Park-Lee, & Meyer, 1988; Mann,
Harmoni, & Power, 1989; O’Brien, 1987). The
most capable person, restricted from exercising
free choice in critical areas, may not have a ful­
filled life.

Second, although limited, there are a number
of empirical studies documenting that people
with profound and multiple disabilities can learn
to make choices (Dattilo & Rusch, 1985; Real on,
Favell, & Lowerre, 1990). Studies such as these

Exceptional Children 215

have the potential to significantly alter training
approaches for people whose daily lives are
highly regimented and controlled by profession­
als. In addition, opportunities to make even the
most rudimentary choices (e.g., what to eat) can
meaningfully increase the quality of life.

Third, follow-up studies of special education
graduates have produced disappointing findings.
Researchers have reported that the majority of
youth with disabilities have not made a success­
ful transition from school to life as a young adult
in the community. It is likely that people with dis­
abilities have

Discussion Post Rubric
20 Possible Points

Category 4 Points 2 Points 0 Points

Length of Post The author??s post
consisted of 150—
200 words

The author??s post
consisted of 100—
149 words

The author??s post
consisted of 99
words or less

Usage, Spelling

The author??s post
contained less
than 2 grammar,
usage, or spelling

The author??s post
contained 3—4
grammar, usage, or
spelling errors.

The author??s post
contained more
than 5 grammar,
usage, or spelling
errors and
proofreading was
not apparent.

and Utilizing

The author posted
references from
peer— reviewed
behavioral sources
in APA format and
cited one or more
original behavioral
references, outside
of the assigned

The author posted
references in APA
format of assigned
readings but did
not include an
additional peer—

The author neither
utilized APA format
for referenced
material used nor
cited an outside peer-
–reviewed behavioral

Promotes Discussion The author??s post
clearly responds to the
assignment prompt,
develops ideas
cogently, organizes
them logically, and
supports them through
empirical writing. The
author??s post also
raises questions or
stimulates discussion.

The author??s post
responds to the
assignment prompt but
relies heavily on
explanations and does
not create and develop
original ideas and
support them logically.
The author??s post may
stimulate some

The author??s post does
not correspond with
the assignment
prompt, mainly
discusses personal
opinions, irrelevant
information, or
information is
presented with limited
logic and lack of
development and
organization of ideas
Does not support any
claims made.

Application of the
Assigned Reading
and Behavioral

The author??s post
clearly demonstrates
application and
relationship to the
week??s assigned

The author??s post
refers to the assigned
tangentially but does
not demonstrate

The author??s post does
not demonstrate
application of the
week??s assigned

Be advised, there are also response costs associated with specific behaviors:

?¢ A response cost of 3 points will be administered for not responding to a peer??s post
?¢ A response cost of 1 point will be administered for not reading all of peers?? posts
?¢ Late discussion posts will adhere to the general policy found on the Virtual Course Schedule.

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