I Can Do It Myself!”: An Evaluation of the Outcomes of a Curriculum Designed to Teach Self-Determination Skills to Adolescents with Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities

Pat Mirenda, University of British Columbia

Leslie Jones, Executive Director, CBI Consultants, Ltd.

The goal of this study was to evaluate the outcomes of a comprehensive self-determination curriculum that was developed by CBI Consultants, Ltd. and was provided to 62 adolescents (ages 15-18, 58% male) with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities (DDs). Instruction was conducted by two facilitators from CBI Consultants who had extensive previous experience implementing the curriculum with adolescents not involved in the study. All instructional sessions took place in participants’ schools; for the most part, sessions were conducted weekly for a period of 27 weeks during the regular school year and required approximately 60 minutes per session. The curriculum utilizedinteractive activities and games to enable participants achieve goals related to self-understanding and make post-school transition plans. Sessions 1-10 focussed on helping students to recognize their unique strengths, talents, abilities, learning styles, and skills. Sessions 11-16 taught participants how to enlist support, speak for themselves, and make goals for the future. Sessions 17-23 built on these skills by teaching participants how to create goals and action plans that would enable them to realize their goals. Finally, Sessions 24-27 focussed on the development of a DVD that participants presented at their Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings to inform parents and teachers about their future goals and the skills that were needed to attain those goals. The Arc’s Self-Determination Scale for Adolescents (ASDSA; Wehmeyer & Kelchner, 1995), a 72-item self-report measure, was the primary outcome measure used in the study. It was administered both before and after the curriculum was delivered, to assess change across four subscale areas: autonomy, self-regulation, psychological empowerment, and self-realization. Paired samples t-tests were used to compare pre-and post-test percentile (i.e., norm) scores for each subscale and the total score. Significant changes were evident in the autonomy and self-regulation subscales as well as the total score (p <.01). The two areas of change were those that received the most attention in the curriculum that was the focus of the study. These results are promising and suggest that substantive changes in at least two domains of self-determination are possible after exposure to this curriculum.