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National Center on Secondary Education and Transition: Creating opportunities for youth with disabilities to achieve successful futures.

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Related Research

Getzel, E. E., & Thoma, C. A. (2011). Experiences of college students with disabilities and the importance of self-determination in higher education settings. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 31(2), 77-84.

This article describes a study conducted with postsecondary education students in 2- and 4-year college settings to (a) identify skills that effective self-advocates use to ensure they stay in college and obtain needed supports and (b) identify the essential self-determination skills needed to remain and persist in college.


Grigal, M., Neubert, D. A., Moon, M. S., & Graham, S. (2003). Self-Determination for students with disabilities: Views of parents and teachers. Exceptional Children, 70(1), 97–112.

General and special education teachers and parents of high school students with disabilities were surveyed about their views on self-determination for their students and children. Implications of the results are discussed.


Mason, C. Y., McGahee-Kovac, M., Johnson, L., & Stillerman, S. (2002). Implementing student-led IEPs: Student participation and student and teacher reactions. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 25(2), 171–92.

Interviews with 35 students who participated in student-led IEP meetings and their teachers confirmed that participating students were able to describe the purpose and benefits of an IEP, their disabilities, and their rights.


Morningstar, M. E., Frey, B. B., Noonan, P. M., Ng, J., Clavenna-Deane, B., Graves, P., . . . Williams-Diehm, K. (2010). A preliminary investigation of the relationship of transition preparation and self-determination for students with disabilities in postsecondary educational settings. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 33(2), 80-94.

This study examined the relationship between high school transition preparation (school and family based) and self-determination among postsecondary students with disabilities. Seventy-six participants from 4-year universities completed a two-part online survey. The first part of the survey measured three dependent variables: psychological empowerment, hope, and locus of control. The second part measured the independent variable quality of high school transition preparation. Correlational analyses were conducted between the quality of a studentís high school transition preparation and perceived self-determination (i.e., psychological empowerment, hope, and locus of control). Although significant correlations existed among the scales used to measure self-determination, the relationships between high school preparation and the role of families and self-determination was of interest.


Wehmeyer, M. L., & Garner, N. W. (2003, December). The impact of personal characteristics of people with intellectual and developmental disability on self-determination and autonomous functioning. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 16(4), 255–265.

This study examined the self-determination and autonomous functioning of 301 adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities and found that intellectual capacity was not a significant contributor to either self-determination or autonomous functioning for this group. Opportunities to make choices, however, contributed significantly and positively to greater self-determination and autonomy.


Wehmeyer, M. L., & Palmer, S. B. (2003). Adult outcomes for students with cognitive disabilities three years after high school: The impact of self-determination. Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 38(2), 131–44.

This study surveyed 94 students with mental retardation or learning disabilities one to three years after leaving school. Students who were more self-determined fared better across multiple quality-of-life categories, including employment and access to health insurance and other benefits, financial independence, and independent living.


Zhang, D., Katsiyannis, A., & Zhang, J. (2002). Teacher and parent practice on fostering self-determination of high school students with mild disabilities. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 25(2). 157–169.

This study investigated teachers' and parents' engagement in recommended practices for fostering self-determination skills of secondary students with disabilities.

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