The Bridge School
Self-Determination Program

Program Description

The Bridge School Self-Determination Curriculum provides students with the necessary tools and supports to become causal agents in their own lives through informed decision-making, thoughtful planning, and persistent action to achieve their goals. Becoming a self-determined individual involves learning about oneself, including one’s strengths and interests. It involves using this knowledge to make decisions, and then communicating effectively to establish oneself as the primary agent in moving forward toward goal setting, attainment of those goals and greater independence. Bridge School students learn to express their individuality using multi-modal communication strategies and devices and learn to assert their independence with the necessary assistive technology devices and supports in place.

Self-determination emerges across the life span as students learn skills and develop attitudes enabling them to take charge of their own lives. Instruction in self-determination may begin with asserting one’s presence, making needs known, and expressing preferences, and builds toward evaluating progress toward goals and creating new approaches to solve problems.

Acquiring the personal characteristics that lead to self-determination is a developmental process that begins in early childhood and continues throughout adult life. Unless students with disabilities associated with severe speech and physical impairments acquire and develop AAC skills and various attitudes and abilities associated with self-determination throughout their educational experience, from early childhood to high school, they will not be prepared to become self-determined young adults.

Instructional emphasis for Pre-K involves:

  • Activities that promote the development of early self-determination are embedded in all activities throughout the school day.
  • Providing opportunities for children to make choices by offering options.
  • Assisting children to recognize alternatives, and restricting choices that are possibly harmful.
  • Encouraging an emergent understanding of the links between choices and later opportunities by revisiting the choices the student has made in the very recent past.
  • Helping the student identify the consequences of these choices, and discussing plans for futures choices.
  • Promoting goal-directed behavior by encouraging students to make plans and abide by them during the school day.
  • Promoting perspective-taking by asking students to think about how others might feel about certain situations.

Instructional emphasis for Lower Elementary Grades K - 1 & 2 involves:

  • Using multiple strategies to achieve a solution to a problem and the presence of various options for choice and decision-making.
  • Recognizing matches between their unique abilities and various strategies or options.
  • Encouraging students to revisit decisions based on the information gained by their action, and to formulate a revised approach if necessary.
  • Assisting in evaluating their own work to promote self-regulation.

Instructional emphasis for Upper Elementary Grades 3 - 4 - 5 involves:

  • Supporting students in making decisions, including providing support in listing options.
  • Identifying consequences, and weighing costs.
  • Revisiting past decisions and identifying alternative courses of action if warranted.
  • Using their emerging decision-making skills to set goals for their personal and school life and to monitor their progress toward these goals.
  • Learning to self-evaluate needs based on strengths and weaknesses.

Instructional emphasis for Middle School Grades 6 - 7 - 8 involves:

  • Demonstrating decision-making skills similar in most respects to those of adults.
  • Generalizing successful problem-solving strategies from one situation to another.
  • Focusing on long-term goals and objectives, and revising plans to achieve those goals.
  • Assuming more control over their lives by providing an increasing level of informed consent.
  • Using perspective-taking skills to negotiate and compromise on important issues.

Program Implementation

Our program can be implemented by any combination of teacher, instructional assistant, speech-language pathologist, family member and/or mentor. Our program has three unique components:

  1. Guided Practice Classroom Lessons
  2. Mentorship Experiences
  3. Real-World Opportunities

Program Description

  • Can be completed in 7-9 weeks per unit over the course of the school year.
  • Should be completed in order from 1 to 3 as units build on one another.
  • Each activity has 3-5 components:
    • Introduction to the activity by the mentor
    • A competed project sample by the mentor
    • A homework assignment with parents
    • Classroom writing project
    • Culminating written and artistic project expressing student individuality

Program Units

The Bridge School Self-Determination Program is a 3-unit program for students who have complex communication needs (CCN) and who use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC).

  • Unit 1: Getting Acquainted/Ice Breakers
  • Unit 2: Self-Knowledge
  • Unit 3: Plan and Act