What is Self-Determination?

Self-determination is about acting or causing things to happen in your life so that you can reach your goals. There are three parts to it: decide, act, and believe.

People who are self-determined are good problem solvers because they figure out how to reach goals at school, work, and home, even when they run into problems.

Setting and making plans to achieve self-determination goals needs to be part of deaf students’ transition planning in high school, which should include the use of well-designed and accessible assessments.


Measuring Self-Determination: The Self-Determination Inventory

The National Deaf Center collaborated with Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities to translate the Self-Determination Inventory: Student Report (SDI:SR) from English to American Sign Language (ASL). 

This online assessment asks about how youth feel about their ability to be self-determined: to make choices, set and go after goals, and make decisions. Designed for youth between the ages of 13 and 22, it takes approximately 10-15 minutes to complete. To take the SDI:SR in ASL, click on ‘American Sign Language’ and “One-time SDI for Students”, enter your first and last name and click “begin the SDI:SR.” 

After completing the SDI:SR, students will receive a student report with their score, along with an ASL video that explains what the report means. Students can share this report with their families, teachers, and vocational rehabilitation counselors, to help develop plans for strengthening self-determination. Families and professionals can use this report guide to work together on setting goals and developing plans.


Using the Student Report in Transition Planning

Students can work with their families, teachers, or vocational rehabilitation counselors by using the Choose Your Future! Activity Kit to develop a detailed plan for reaching goals that are aligned with their personal preferences. These goals can then be integrated in transition planning, like individualized education plans (IEPs), vocational rehabilitation meetings, and pre-employment transition services (Pre-ETS). 

Deafverse is a free online game that gives deaf youth a safe space to practice applying self-determination skills at home, in school, and in the community. Additional expansion activities are also available in downloadable Strategy Guides.  

Additional Resources

For families:

  • This resource shares tips for strengthening self-determination at home among deaf teens, while this one has tips that are applicable to all teens.

For teachers:

For vocational rehabilitation counselors:

  • This Pre-ETS guide addresses instruction in self-advocacy and suggests additional resources about self-determination.