Frontline Initiative Self-Determination
If you are a Direct Support Professional (DSP) who supports people with disabilities, you may be hearing more about promoting Self-determination, but you may not know exactly what it is or what it ought to look like in the lives of individuals. Self-determination is not the same as choice making, independence, or self-advocacy, but is made up of many different things. There are probably as many ways to think about it as there are people in the world. It refers to making plans and having ultimate control over both larger life decisions such as selecting a new place to live, or quitting a job, as well as everyday choices such as what shirt to wear, or who to receive help from when needed.
It is assumed for most people in our society that they have the ultimate right to control their own lives and therefore they are encouraged to do so at an early age. However, in our desire to protect people with disabilities, we have not offered them the same opportunities to live a life of their own choosing. A role for today’s DSP is to give control over large and small life decisions back to persons with disabilities, but also to continue providing support based on helping each person achieve the lifestyle of his or her choosing. Finding this balance is part of the “art” of the DSP’s job.