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Assisting your child to reach their full potential is a process which starts when they are young. As your child begins to learn about themself, the things they do really well and the things that they need help with, they learn to value themselves. When they become an adult, the intent is that they can take control over choices and decisions which impact their lives, and take responsibility for their actions. This is called being self-determined. Everyone can learn to be self-determined.

Below are suggestions for families which will help ensure your child reaches their full potential:

  1. Find a balance between protection and independence. Allow your son or daughter to explore his or her world.
  2. Children need to learn that what they say or do matters and can influence others. Encourage your child to ask questions and express opinions. Include them in family discussions, letting them know what they have to say is important.
  3. Answer questions that they may have regarding differences related to their disability. That doesn't mean, however, to just focus on limitations but to acknowledge the whole child, their strengths and the areas where they need more assistance.
  4. Children need to learn to work toward goals and one of the best ways for them to learn this is for the behavior to be modeled for them. When you set a goal talk about the steps you are going to use to achieve it.
  5. If possible, provide your child with opportunities to interact with children of different ages, backgrounds and abilities. This will help them realize that everyone is unique.
  6. Set realistic but ambitious goals. Know your child's abilities so that you can provide them enough challenge to continue to move forward. And make sure the same process is happening at school.
  7. Allow your child to take responsibility for their own actions, successes and failures. And provide honest and positive feedback. Focus on the task and not on your child.
  8. Take every opportunity to allow your child to make choices; what they wear, what is served for dinner. Although it isn't always practical to do this, any choice making opportunity is meaningful.

A child who learn their sense of worth from their parent/guardian, and other adults, will be well on the way to becoming an adult who is self-determining. By being allowed the opportunities to make choices and decisions, to explore and take calculated risks and to learn from experiences of success and failure, your child will develop the abilities and attitudes necessary to reach his or her full potential. Below are some resources to further assist your child in becoming self-determined.

A Student's Guide to the IEP - http://nichcy.org/wp-content/uploads/docs/st1.pd

Helping Students Develop Their IEPs - http://nichcy.org/wp-content/uploads/docs/ta2.pdf

A Student's Guide to Jobs - http://nichcy.org/wp-content/uploads/docs/st2.pdf

Helping Student's with Cognitive Disabilities Find and Keep a Job - http://nichcy.org/wp-content/uploads/docs/ta3.pdf