Module Three: Parents Developing Self Determination in Their Youth


This module focuses on parents.  We will share videos of parents, information about parents and resources for and about parents.  We recognize the important role parents play in educating self-determined students.  We acknowledge parents for being strong role models and for partnering with educators and other professionals to support programs that develop leadership and self-confidence in our students.

The I’m Determined state-directed project, through state-wide and regional training meetings, the Youth Leadership Forum and Youth Summits and a variety of local parent nights and events has developed a network of committed parents across Virginia.  Parents who have taken part in these activities are empowered to work closely with their schools, communities and post-secondary institutions to foster self-determination in their children.

Please view the following four videos.  Three parents and a student talk about their involvement in I’m Determined.


Regina Craig


Mary Anne Huband


Ashley Michael


Daniel Michael-Lee


Parents and Self Determination

The following is an excerpt from a document published by the Idaho Council on Developmental Disabilities March, 2007:

In a system built around self-determination, the individual with a disability plays the lead role but they also must and do rely on others, including their parents.  There seems to be a misconception that in a self-determined environment parents are excluded.  That is simply not true.  Parents have supported and advocated for their children who have disabilities for years and that support and expertise continue to be invaluable.

In fact, if you ask a person with a disability, “What or who most enables and supports you to be self-determined?” they answer:

“My parents.”

But if you then ask them, “What or who most prevents you from being self-determined?” they answer:

“My parents.”

Parents may fulfill many roles in a self-determined environment:  advocate, care provider, home provider, member of support circle, participant in person-centered planning, and most importantly – parent.

The I’m Determined State-directed Project supports parents through its website and the Youth and Parent Summits.  At the Parent Summit, parents attend separate sessions, led by staff from the Partnership for People with Disabilities, Virginia Commonwealth University. Please visit the “Parents” section of this website for several video clips and programs, PowerPoint presentations, and documents all for parents seeking information about self-determination and assistance in supporting their son or daughter to develop and practice self-determination skills.

Empowering Parents

Parents often rely on educators and educational literature to guide them in learning skills that they can use in assisting their children to be confident and self-determined.  For more information, read through the Self-Determination Introduction for Parents.

A father and child working on car tire.

  • Start early – infant and toddlers need to feel control over their environment by having access to toys, clothes, choices, decisions, and problem-solving opportunities. 
  • Elementary – youth need to know about their disability, what it means, how it affects learning and behavior.  They need to embrace their strengths.
  • Middle and High School – youth need to be competent and confident in their decisions, take the lead in meetings for and about them, and learn goal setting and achievement.

Parents should talk honestly to their children, listen, and answers their questions.  Involve them in medical appointments and discussions.  Talk about their learning strengths and needs; understand their accommodations; educate themselves and their youth about their rights.

Parent Support of Student-led IEP meetings

The I’m Determined state-directed project encourages and supports student involvement in the IEP process and meeting. has many quality resources for educators, parents, and youth to use to gain knowledge and skills.  IEPs are about students and yet most of our students do not have a meaningful part in the development and discussion of their own plans. Click into the “Student Involvement” section of this website for video clips and programs, PowerPoints, and documents about involving students in their IEPs.

The Involve IEP chart.

There are many ways for all students to participate in their IEPs.  Consider:

  • Create invitations, write thank-you notes to attendees, introduce family members, photocopy materials for the meeting
  • Create PowerPoint presentations
  • Provide work samples
  • Create an “It’s All About Me” notebook or folder
  • Make a list of their strengths and weaknesses
  • Help write the PLoP
  • Present their transition plan
  • Pass out the IEP-at-a-Glance to their teachers and explain their classroom needs

Having an active, leadership role in IEPs help students:

  • to take charge of their learning, the responsibility shifts from teacher/parent to the student
  • participate in IEP goal setting by having a vested interest in achieving those goals
  • may decrease inappropriate behaviors,  as students feel empowered to chart their own course.

Research and literature on self-determination

The Did You Know chart.

The CORE COMPONENTS of self-determination are:

  • Choice making
  • Decision making
  • Problem-solving
  • Goal Setting
  • Self-regulation
  • Self-instruction
  • Self-advocacy
  • Internal locus of control
  • Self-efficacy
  • Efficacy expectation
  • Self-awareness and self-knowledge


Resources for Parents

Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center
100 N. Washington Street, Suite 234
Falls Church VA 22046
Fax: 800-869-6782 in VA

Partnership for People with Disabilities: