Background & Need for Paving the Way to Self Determination

Historically, parents and family members of children with developmental disabilities are shown one path in life for their children; often a path to a segregated and “safe” life.  The path may include segregated school and activities, sheltered work and sub-minimum wage leading to forced poverty and congregate living.  While every situation is as individual as the people are, for many people with developmental disabilities a self-determined and independent life can be a reality.  When parents and families are given an opportunity to see personal, lived experiences of others with developmental disabilities that shows them a different life for their child, it can lead to a change in outlook, perspective, and expectation. That change in expectation can lead to a path that includes inclusion and belonging, self-determination and supported decision-making, employment and independent living.

Research has shown that other people’s expectations for one’s success contributes to their actual success.  According to a study conducted by Carter, Austin, & Trainor, youth with developmental disabilities whose parents expected them to hold a job after graduation are five times more likely to have paid employment after graduating than youth whose parents did not hold similar expectations. Students whose teachers expected them to work during the upcoming summer were 15 times more likely to work than students whose teachers did not hold such expectations.

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