Article: Autism and Self-Determination: Factor Analysis of Two Measures of Self-Determination. By Chou and others. In Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 2017, 32(3).
This article does not seem to have a definition of self-determination. There is a thing called Self-determination Theory that talks about how people grow and change based on their perception of their needs, and the opportunities they are given to grow. Self-determination is hot right now in education because there is a growing body of research that links self-determination to a bunch of other outcomes for students such as academic success and quality of life. The problem, identified by the researchers, is that the scales used to measure self-determination in students have not been developed specifically for ASD students, and thus might not be able to measure self-determination in this population. This study wanted to see if two measures of self-determination would be reasonable to use with ASD students. If so, this would be a big step forward with both the research of self-determination in the ASD population and for the purpose of designing programs and curricula for the development of self-determination in the ASD population.
The study concluded, in general, that the two measures they looked at were good, for now, in measuring self-determination in ASD individuals. One component of self-determination, "self-realization", was not measured so well with these scales. Self-realization includes skills like self-knowledge and self-awareness. These things are possibly measured differently in the ASD population compared to other populations.
This article was thoughtfully organized, if a little technical. The introduction provides a brief overview of some competing or complimentary theories of Self-determination, which is helpful for those of us new to the field.
Self-determined Learning Theory (see Mithaug et. al., 2003) describes the process of people becoming self-determined learners, which is the interaction between capacities and opportunities. Capacities are "knowledge, abilities, and perceptions that enable students to become self-determined learners," and opportunities are "chances to apply knowledge." When opportunities are aligned with abilities, these opportunities are pursued by self-determined learners. Learners then are able to change their behaviors to pursue their goals.
Wehmeyer's functional theory of self-determination (see Wehmeyer et al., 2006) suggests there are four basic elements of self-determination:
a. acting autonomously
b. self-regulating behaviors
c. initiaitng and responding to events in a psychologically empowered manner
d. acting in a self-realizing manner
Skills and attitudes that enable causal agency (I made something happen) and volitional action (I meant to do that) are choice-making skills, decision-making skills, problem-solving skills, goal-setting and attainment skills, self-monitoring skills, self-advocacy skills, an internal locus of control, perceptions of self-efficacy and outcome expectancy, self-awareness, and self-knowledge. (p.164)
The reader should know that I lifted much of this directly from the article. I can already see how self-determination might be a challenge for some ASD individuals, but it is helpful to have it operationalized and broken into pieces like this.