Self determination is believing you can control your own destiny. Self-determination is a combination of attitudes and abilities that lead people to set goals for themselves, evaluate options, make choices and then take the initiative to reach these goals. It is about being in charge, but is not necessarily the same thing as self-sufficiency or independence. It means making choices, learning to effectively solve problems, and taking control and responsibility for one's life. Practicing self-determination also means one experiences the consequences of making choices.
Self-determination involves many attitudes and abilities including: self-awareness, assertiveness, creativity, pride, problem solving and self-advocacy skills. The development of self-determination skills is a process that begins in childhood and continues throughout one's life. Well-meaning but misguided individuals sometimes "protect" children by making all their decisions for them. Since self-determination skills are most effectively learned and developed by practicing them, it is important that young people be given ample opportunity to use their self-advocacy, decision-making and socialization skills well before they leave school to prepare themselves for working and living in their community. Older and more experienced adults can play a helpful role in this process not only by serving as role models, but by working actively and directly with young people as mentors. By sharing the experiences and strategies that led to their own successful employment and independence, mentors can help guide young people through a challenging transition period, offer problem-solving advice on issues that parents lack direct experience with (or that youth may be reluctant to discuss openly with their parents), and provide needed encouragement.