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The Bridge School Self-Determination Program 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. Students with complex communication needs (CCN) associated with severe speech and physical impairments (SSPI) express their individuality using multi-modal communication strategies and devices and assert their independence with the necessary assistive technology devices and supports in place.
We have adapted and implemented specific self-determination curricula for our middle school students (from Steps to Self-Determination a Curriculum to Help Adolescents Learn to Achieve Their Goals by Sharon Field and Alan Hoffman, 2005) in which they participate in a process to learn about their strengths, weaknesses, needs and preferences, as well as the options and supports that are available to them. With this information they can then determine what is really important to them and begin the process of developing a plan to attain their goals.
Mentors and their mentees participate in weekly self-determination lessons and activities. They collaborate to set up routines as a group to promote a community of equality and respect. They create a community of learners where everyone is committed to becoming more self-determined, including the mentors, teachers and other professionals who are members of the group.
Once short and long-term goals are identified, potential barriers are anticipated and plans are made, our students need to engage in many rich experiences to make things happen and experience positive outcomes. Based on these outcomes, students can then determine whether they want to make minor adjustments in their plans, whether they're ready to move forward to the next step in their plans, or whether they need to re-evaluate their plans and re-prioritize their goals.