Plain Language Summary: Self-Determination & Dignity of Risk

Self-determination is a right that all people have. It means that they have a right to make their own choices and set their own goals. People with developmental disabilities (DD) also have this right, and should have support in achieving self-determination.

Dignity of risk means being able to make a choice even if it could have negative consequences for you. Negative consequences could be things like getting injured, getting lost, and being heartbroken. Experiencing negative consequences helps all of us to learn. It is natural to want to protect someone that we care about, but it’s important to not take away someone’s dignity of risk. When someone has both self-determination and dignity of risk, they are more likely to become independent.

When someone with DD has control over their lives, their quality of life improves and they are more independent. Oftentimes, loved ones limit this by making decisions for them. This is because they want to protect the person with DD and comes from good intentions. It’s important to not make assumptions about someone’s ability to make their own choices.

To help someone with DD have self-determination and dignity of risk, they should be in charge of the choices made about their lives. Even if they have legal guardians, people with DD should be included in all decisions made about them. This is called person-centered planning. We are the experts of ourselves and people with DD are no different. Person-centered planning looks at the person’s strengths, goals, needs, and wants. This type of planning helps people with DD feel more confident in themselves and in their choices.

Another way to help someone with DD have self-determination is to use the best communication style for them. Different styles of communicating can include picture exchange systems, adaptive devices, assistive technology, or sign language. This is important to consider so that the person with DD can express what their goals and desires are.

To learn more, read the MHDD Self-Determination & Dignity of Risk Fact Sheet.

green and blue logo for mental health and developmental disability natinoal training center

Join Our Email List

Enter your name and email to receive our newsletters quarterly!