Age-Appropriate Transition Assessment

Self-Determination Is a Key Factor

Self-determination is described as:

"A combination of skills, knowledge, and beliefs that enable a person to engage in goal directed, self-regulated, autonomous behavior. An understanding of one's strengths and limitations, together with a belief of oneself as capable and effective are essential to self-determination. When acting on the basis of these skills and attitudes, individuals have greater ability to take control of their lives and assume the role of successful adults in our society" (p. 2).

Field, S., Martin, J., Miller, R., Ward, M., & Wehmeyer, M. (1998). A practical guide for teaching self-determination. Reston, VA: Council for Exceptional Children.

Characteristics or elements of self-determination should be assessed as part of Age-Appropriate Transition Assessment and then developed, taught, and reinforced as part of the student's transition plan. Elements to consider include the following:

  • Sense of Self:

    Self-realization; self-understanding; self-awareness (includes knowledge of own strengths and weaknesses)

  • Ability to Promote Self:

    Self-advocacy; assertiveness; negotiation

  • Ability to Take Control:

    Decision-making; choice-making; evaluating outcomes, problem solving, adjusting performance based on feedback of some kind; internal locus of control

  • Directing Own Path:

    Responsibility, determining what is important; setting, planning, and achieving goals; authority; taking risks; freedom

  • Successful Interactions with Others:

    Dealing with conflict and criticism; communicating and Listening

  • Self-Care and Protection:

    Personal control; taking care of self; self-regulation

Adapted from Paraschiv, I. (2000). Self-determination, self-advocacy, and the role of the professional. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Association on Mental Retardation.

Self-determination skills have been linked to successful adult outcomes for students with disabilities. Therefore, it is important to use formal or informal assessment tools during the Age-Appropriate Transition Assessment process to document the level of self-determination a student demonstrates and to identify areas of need.

The following websites offer resources to assist in assessing self-determination.

The AIR Self-Determination Scale
The American Institutes for Research (AIR), in collaboration with Teachers College, Columbia University in New York City, developed a student, parent, and educator version of the AIR Self-Determination Assessments.

The AIR Self-Determination scale:

  • Produces a profile of the student's level of self-determination
  • Identifies areas of strength and areas needing improvement
  • Identifies suggested educational goals

The ARC Self-Determination Scale
Developed by Dr. Michael Wehmeyer and colleagues, the ARC Self-Determination Scale:

  • Assesses the self-determination strengths and weaknesses of adolescents with disabilities
  • Facilitates student involvement in educational planning and instruction to promote self-determination
  • Assesses student self-determination skills for research purposes

Employability Life Skills Checklist (ELSA)
Employability skills include many of the skills related to self-determination such as decision-making, choice-making, and initiation. These skills are included in the ELSA, which allows for tracking the skills across multiple years. Two versions are available: ages 6-13 and ages 14-21. Each version has a parent and a school/educator format.

Personal Preference Indicators and Child Preference Indicators
by Jan Moss (rev. 2006)
Created with the support of the Center for Learning and Leadership/UCEDD, these tools help to create a baseline of information that describes favorites, feelings, choice-making skills, social abilities, natural body clock functions, health issues, and role Indicator of a child or an adult. These Indicators help to reveal strengths and abilities from which to build and develop self-determination skills.

Self-Determination: Instructional and Assessment Strategies (2007)
by Michael Wehmeyer and Sharon Field (Corwin Press)
This book offers proven instructional techniques that empower students with disabilities to become their own advocates. Information relates to assessment, embedding instruction in the general curriculum and other evidence-based practices. The appendix includes the Self Determination Quality Indicators Assessment Tool to help teams to determine the level at which program supports in school and home reflect quality indicators that support the development of self-determination.

I’m Determined
This is the website of the Virginia Department of Education Self-Determination Project. It offers multiple resources that can be used as part of individualized informal assessment. Checklists, templates, and sample plans are available to assist the student and his/her team in self-directed future planning.

The Center for Innovative Teaching Experiences (C.I.T.E.) Learning Styles Instrument
The C.I.T.E. Learning Styles Instrument helps educators determine their students' learning styles, which can assist in self-awareness, strengths, and challenges. Students rate themselves on 45 items, resulting in identification of a major and minor learning style.

An Educational Journey from Self-Discovery to Advocacy: A Handbook for Students
This handbook contains information and resources to assist in the assessment and development of self-determination.

Casey Life Skills Assessment
These tools are designed to help engage youth and their caregivers when used in conjunction with other formal and informal methods of assessment. The assessments consist of statements about life skills domains deemed critical by youth and caregivers for successful adult living. (This free online assessment is also referred to as the Ansell-Casey Life Skills Assessment.)