Preparing for Transition Using an Activity-Based Self-Determination Curriculum

This activity-based curriculum from Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired can be used to teach and promote self-determination skills with youth who are blind or visually impaired.

Denise Fitzgerald

Jeff Migliozzi

Perkins School for the Blind

Many Thanks to the TSBVI and the authors of the Empowerment Curriculum.

Empowered logo from TSBVI

Goal 9 – National Agenda:  Transition services will address developmental and educational needs (birth through high school) to assist students and their families, in setting goals and implementing strategies through the life continuum commensurate with the student’s aptitudes, interests, and abilities.

Expanded Core Curriculum: “New” area of the Expanded Core Curriculum emphasizes Self-Determination

What is Self-Determination?

  • Ward (1988) defines self-determination as attitudes that lead people to define goals for themselves and their ability to achieve those goals. 

  • Field and Hoffman (1994) define self-determination as the ability to define and achieve goals based on a foundation of knowing and valuing oneself.

Why is Self-Determination Important?

  • Wehmeyer and Schwartz (1997) found that self-determined students were more likely to have achieved positive adult outcomes than peers who were not self-determined.

  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that students’ Individual Education Plan (IEP) activities must be based upon student preferences and interests.

Are Self-Determination and Quality of Life Related?

A common goal we all share for our students with visual impairments is for them to lead the highest possible quality of life. In order to achieve that goal, we must equip them with the self-determination knowledge and skills they need to be empowered to achieve their chosen goals.

People who are self-determined make or cause things to happen in their lives

Quality of Life Indicators

  • Emotional well-being
  • Satisfying interpersonal relationships
  • Material well-being
  • Personal development
  • Physical well-being
  • Self-determination
  • Meaningful work
  • Social inclusion
  • Peer group with lasting friendships
  • Knowledge of rights

Also Essential Are:

  • An understanding of one’s strengths and limitations
  • Belief in oneself as capable and effective
  • The ability to take control of one’s life

(Field et al, 1998)


This includes:

Control over day to day decisions

  • What to wear
  • What to eat
  • What activities to participate it
  • How to spend your spare time
  • How to go about getting your needs met while respecting the rights, values and beliefs of others

Control over the long-term decisions

  • Where to live
  • Who to live with
  • Where to work
  • How to spend your money
  • What to do in your spare time

Recognize a Continuum of Supports…

“Individuals with significant cognitive disabilities must choose, to the extent that they are able (with support) the trusted allies with whom to collaborate.” – Turnbull & Turnbull

Conceptual Framework of Self-Advocacy  (Test, el al. 2005)

  • Knowledge of self – interests, preferences, strengths, needs, learning style, disability
  • Knowledge of rights – as a citizen, as a person with a disability (IDEIA)
  • Communication – negotiation, persuasion, compromise
  • Leadership – how to function in a group, understanding one’s role, standing up for the rights of a group

Here’s the Problem!

  • Self-esteem issues
  • Apparent lack of initiative
  • Skill deficits in self-advocacy
  • Passive and passive-aggressive communication behaviors
  • Unrealistic goals of our students 
  • Unchallenged goals
  • Learned helplessness
  • Intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation
  • Difficulties with adjustment to disability, especially in teenagers
  • How student’s are perceived by others

Recognizing Cultural Differences

“Planning must respect and honor family cultural values including values pertaining to parental authority over child choice…..” – Turnbull & Turnbull

Developing a Shared Vision for the Future


Think About This….

Desired Outcomes of Self-Determination Instruction

Research Says:

Who Needs Explicit Instruction in Self-Determination?

Activity-Based Curriculum was Designed for Blind / VI Students

Sample Activity from Unit 1

  • All My Friends Game 
  • To find out the likes and dislikes of the participants

Sample Activity from Unit 6

  • Things I Can Do To Take Care of Myself 
  • To help students understand that part of self-management is knowing how to take care of yourself

Sample Activity from Unit 16

  • Importance of the steps in an Action Plan
  • To emphasize the importance of steps in an Action Plan, and help students understand the importance of not leaving steps out

Implementation Ideas

  • Create “All about Me” books that grow and travel with the student
  • Implement a “skill of the week” program
  • Infuse instruction into daily activities
  • Implement specific training modules
  • Think outside the box

Using the Curriculum: Where and How?

  • At home and in the community
  • Resource/content mastery rooms
  • One-on-one with the TVI
  • General education classrooms
  • Summer programs
  • Week-end programs
  • Evening programs
  • Meeting only once a month will not provide sufficient continuity
  • Having training once a week is effective
  • Having an intensive 1-2 week program would be ideal

And Finally, When Self Determined…

People experience a sense of freedom to do what is interesting, personal important and vitalizing. – (Deci & Ryan, professors in Dep. of Clinical & Social Sciences at University of Rochester)

Organization of the units in Empowered

Unit 1 Getting to Know Each Other –  Sample Activities

Unit 2 Self Awareness

Sample Activities

Unit 3 Identifying Strengths and Challenges

Sample Activities

Unit 4 Self Acceptance, Coping and Compensatory Strategies

Sample Activities

Unit 5 Self-Management: Stress Management

Sample Activities

Unit 6 Self-Management: Self Assessment Process

Sample Activities

Unit 7 Personal Control

Sample Activities

Unit 8 Basics of Communication

Sample Activities

Unit 9 Passive, Aggressive, Passive/Aggressive and Assertive Communication

Sample Activities

Unit 10 Personal Advocacy

Sample Activities

Unit 11 Decision Making

Sample Activities

Unit 12 Values

Sample Activities

Unit 13 Dreaming About Your Future

Sample Activities

Unit 14 Setting Long-Term Goals

Sample Activities

Unit 15 Setting Short-Term Objectives

Sample Activities

Unit 16 Making Action Plans

Sample Activities

Unit 17 Problem Solving

Sample Activities

Unit 18 Problem Solving II – Goal Assessment and Revision

Sample Activities

Unit 19 Conflict Resolution

Sample Activities

Unit 20 Rights and Responsibilities

Sample Activities

Unit 21 Knowledge of Resources

Sample Activities


Unit 22 Advocacy within Systems

Sample Activities

Unit 23 Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Sample Activities

Units of Empowered

Getting started with Transition Planning:

Transition Timeline: Where to Start

Student-Driven Transition Planning

Preparing for Transition Using an Activity-Based Self-Determination Curriculum

Preparing for College


Tools for Planning

Sample Forms and Assessment Tools

By Denise Fitzgerald

Screenshot of Connecting a computer to join conferencing call and text

Preparing Middle School and High School Students with VIB for Remote Learning

Screenshot of Google Docs with focus on dictation button and text

Educational Example of Using Speech to Text and Dictation

Bar chart showing the diameter of planets in our solar system

Activity: Reading bar charts using fun facts about planets