The Bridge School

Self-Determination Program


Parents/caregivers of sons and daughters with exceptional needs are such strong advocates that it can be a difficult process to gradually share this responsibility with their children as they recognize the need for them to become self-determined individuals.

A major challenge that parents grapple with is how to balance their need as parents to provide a safe and nurturing environment while providing their children the opportunities to be as independent as they can be.

The process that parents go through to help their sons or daughters become self-determined involves allowing their children: to explore and take risks; to set their own goals; to experience the process of working toward those goals with success and failure; to be involved in family discussions and decision–making; and to be allowed to make their own choices and accept responsibility for the outcomes.

It has been our experience that the way parents manage this careful balance between protection and independence varies from family to family but the challenges they face during the process are very similar. In these interviews you will hear 3 parents sharing their perspectives as they moved through this process with their children and providing insight into the ups and downs of this journey.


In this clip, Betsy a parent of a high school student, expresses her surprise in learning some of the things that Clay identified as most important to him.


MaryLou, the mother of a student in a post secondary program, explains how she became aware for the first time that her son’s goals for himself were different from her goals for him when he was given an alternative way of answering these important life questions.


Richard describes that as a parent of a child with disabilities he has always been in the position of making decisions regarding what’s best for his daughter and how difficult it has been to pull back and allow her to begin making her own decisions as she gets older.