This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Examining the Effects of Teaching Self-Determination Skills to High School Youth with Disabilities




Zito, Stephanie

Type of Degree



Rehabilitation and Special Education


An extensive review of the literature has been conducted in the area of self-determination for youth with disabilities who are preparing for their transitions from school to post school activities. Self-determination is presented as a best practice for transition education and current instructional practices used to teach such skills are described. Evidence is provided supporting the benefits of being self-determined for students while they are in school and as they exit from school. Additionally, the component of peer mentoring is examined as a possible strategy for assisting youth in developing self-determination skills. Specifically, benefits of such programs and structural components necessary to facilitate peer mentoring were identified. Teaching selfdetermination skills to youth with disabilities requires the implementation of lessons into classroom activities. This study used lessons from Whose Future is it Anyway?, a Student- Directed Transition Planning Process (Wehmeyer et al., 2004), to teach students how to make decisions and set goals, skills identified with being self-determined. Forty-four high school students with mild mental retardation, specific learning disabilities, other health impairments, or visual impairments (21 girls, 23 boys, average age 16.77 years, 59.1 African-American, 38.6% Caucasian, and 2.3% Hispanic) from three southeast Alabama high schools participated in this study. Students were assigned to one of three groups: (Group 1) instruction in selfdetermination, (Group 2) instruction in self-determination and participation in a pre-established school peer mentoring program, and (Group 3) no instruction in self-determination nor participation in peer mentoring. Twelve lessons were taught, one each day, for approximately 45 iii minutes in the special education classroom. A pretest/posttest design was used for each of the three groups to determine change in knowledge and skills of self-determination after the intervention. The results of this study suggest that students with mild disabilities can benefit from instruction in self-determination. There was no difference between students who participated in peer mentoring.