Domain 5: Community-Referenced Curriculum and Programs

Community-based transition programs increase student confidence, independence, and self-determination  as well as lead to improved post-school outcomes.  Teaching skills like social, communication, and collaboration skills in multiple settings makes it more likely that these skills will be generalized and applied in post-school settings (Hartman, 2009).  The more a student is exposed to community resources and experiences, the more likely they are to be involved in a community group after high school. Community-referenced programs provide multiple opportunities for students with disabilities to expand on their vision for life and to become more involved in the community they live in. 

At Guadalupe Centers High School, where I teach, students in the self-contained functional life skills program, go into the community at least twice a quarter.  This includes trips to the grocery store, small restaurants, the bank, and local museums.  The purpose of these trips is to teach appropriate social interactions and communication within an authentic community setting.  The students are also exposed to public transportation and learning how to navigate the city.  The students in this program also run a coffee shop at school, which also promotes increasing social communication skills and interactions as well as teaching them how to make basic financial transactions. 

An essential component of community-reference curriculum should focus on students becoming self-determined.  According to Wehymeyer, the definition of self-determination is “self-caused (vs. other) action, to people acting volitionally, based on their own will… volitional behavior implies that one acts consciously with intent” (Wehymeyer, 2014, p. 179), which indicates that someone acts intentionally and independently.  Students who are self-determined are more likely to live independently after high school and secure paid employment.  Self-determination involves awareness of preferences, interests, strengths, and limitations, making informed choices and setting goals, taking action, reflecting on the action, and independently and confidently communicating and regulating behavior (Wehmeyer & Gragoudas, 2004).  Families can encourage self-determination by: allowing child to explore and take risks; setting realistic but ambitious expectations; allowing child to make choices; and modelling the process of working towards a goal (Wehmeyer, 2014). When teaching self-determination practices, teachers should be aware of cultural values and modify the activity based on the values of the class.  Many cultures place an importance on familial goals rather than individual goals, so this is important to remember when using a community-referenced curriculum (Shogren, 2011).  Direct instruction of self-determination skills will lead to students taking more ownership and action of their post-secondary goals.  An important component of self-determination is self-advocacy, being able to communicate your wants, needs,  and interests in an effective way. Self-advocacy is essential for people with disabilities to continue to access supports after high school. 

In addition to self-determination, community and school partnerships should be established to reinforce independent living skills needed for post-secondary life and to connect students and families with community resources and agencies.    Currently, the most common school-community partnerships are with mental health providers, juvenile justice sector and youth development organizers (Anderson-Butcher, 2006).  Centers for Independent Living also run student education sessions and empowerment groups to develop independent living and self-determination skills (Wehmeyer & Gragoudas, 2004).  As schools continue to build partnerships in the community, it will be important to find groups who will reinforce and build upon social and academic skills that are already being taught in the classroom.  School-community partnerships will lead to increased post-school outcomes because it establishes the connection for students to community resources and helps them to set expectations for post-secondary life.


Self advocacy is the “process of speaking for yourself and knowledge of your rights, wishes, needs and strengths”

Self-determination “empowers you to make choices and take control of your life according to your own interests, needs, and abilities”

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, 2013, p. 6

Hands using recording control panel


These artifacts are a collection of coursework completed in SPED 856,  859, and 863 as well as resources that I have used within my district.  These artifacts are aligned to the following transitions competencies:


5.1 Use or share instructional resources addressing independent living

Community Resource Directory

Supports 5.1, 5.2

The Community Resource Directory was completed for SPED 859 and includes local, state, and national agencies addressing different domains.  The directory includes overview information and resources specifically for addressing independent living & advocacy and community participation.  In addition to the directory, there is also a matrix of resources if people want to locate one resource that provides multiple services.  This artifact is a great resource for identifying multiple community partnerships or connecting students and families to the resources they need. 
Note, to find the contact info for agencies, you will have to scroll down on page and click arrows to navigate between different domains.

Case Study: Juan

Supports 5.1, 5.4, 5.5, 5.7

This assignment was completed for SPED 863 based on examining the case study of Juan.  The assignment  examines Juan's strengths and needs related to College and Career Readiness Framework areas; discusses the supports of peer and work based mentoring; identifies possible community instruction topics and experiences; and recommends how to implement and instruct self-determination skills and curriculum. This assignment reinforces the idea that the use of community-based transition programs lead to positive post-school outcomes, because students get a frame of reference when they are in a natural workplace environment to reinforce appropriate behaviors or expectations (Hartman, 2009). This artifact is a good example of how different resources can be used to develop a plan for developing a students' independent living, community participation, self-advocacy and self-determination skills.

I'm Determined Website

Supports 5.1, 5.2, 5.4

The I'm Determined website provides great resources for teachers, parents, and transition-aged youth regarding self-determination, self-advocacy, independent living, and community participation.  I'm Determined includes videos, informational modules, checklists, organizers, and a transition guide.  Everything is in a very user-friendly form that can be understood by all levels. This is a helpful way to educate families on how to help their child develop these essential skills (Wehmeyer, 2014).  It also includes different resources for elementary and secondary aged students to encourage teaching transition skills earlier.  I'm Determined is a great instructional resource that addresses the topics of independent living, community participation, self-determination, and self-advocacy.

ChoiceMaker Self-Determination Curriculum

Supports 5.4, 5.5, 5.6

Developed by Martin & Marshall (2008), ChoiceMaker Self-Determination Curriculum provides lessons and resources to teach skills of choosing goals, expressing goals and taking action.  The lessons are designed to be integrated into coursework and can be used for all students.  The only disability-specific module is the Self-Directed IEP.  In my practice, I have used these lessons and resources when teaching Transitions classes and have also provided the materials to the Freshman Seminar teacher.  These lessons have helped students to become more comfortable with the process for self-determination including planning, setting goals, taking action, problem solving, and learning from the experience (Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, 2013).  The Self-Directed IEP module has also helped my students to increase their self-advocacy skills and communicating about their disability and accommodations at school.

Independent Living Video Reflection

Supports 5.1, 5.7

This artifact includes a reflection about a video interview with LouAnn Kibee, an active leader in the Independent Living Movement.  The reflection focuses on the importance of teaching self-determination skills and providing role-models for families of students with disabilities.  This aligns with the idea that families should be educated about self-determination so they can better understand and so they can advocate for their cultural values to drive the process (Shogren, 2011).  This artifact also emphasizes how Centers for Independent Living should be involved with transition-aged youth and their families since they are life-long resources to empower students' independent living and self-advocacy skills.

Discussion Post

Supports 5.4, 5.5, 5.6

This artifact is a discussion post from SPED 856 responding to the prompts: 

  1. What opportunities do or could you create in your classroom/curriculum that allow for self-determination development in your students?

  2. How can culture impact the student’s self-determination?  If the family’s beliefs are different than yours or the IEP team’s, how would you support the family while at the same time, trying to maintain balance and your own beliefs?

This discussion post emphasizes the importance of instructing self-advocacy and self-determination skills and collaborating with families.  This discussion post also addresses the concerns of Shogren (2011) regarding adapting self-determination curriculum to meet the needs and values of culturally and linguistically diverse families.  Overall, this artifact demonstrates mastery of sharing and using resources to facilitate instruction of self-advocacy and self-determination skills and how to support students in using these skills in the transitions process. 


Community Partners

These organizations collaborate with the school to increase students' self-advocacy skills, healthy social relationships and independent living skills. (Supports 5.1, 5.3, 5.7)


Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) from University of Missouri works with our transition-aged students twice a month on independent living and self-advocacy skills.  This is done through group lessons or through 1-on-1 advisory sessions.

Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA) provides healthy relationship education to all of the students at the high school. Some students can take it as a semester elective class.  MOCSA also provides counseling services to students who have been a victim of sexual assault.

The Whole Person is a Center for Independent Living.  They facilitate student educational empowerment sessions on self-advocacy,  social interactions, transitions and independent living skills. The Whole Person works annually with our functional life skills program through a 6-week curriculum.

Propel at University of Missouri Kansas City is a 2-year transitional program. Students with disabilities attend college classes 75% of the time.  The remaining time they are supported by Propel staff and continue to work on social, communication, independent living, self-determination, self-advocacy, and vocational skills.  Propel students also participate in work-based learning internships to develop skills in the authentic workplace setting. In the class of 2019 we had 4 students enroll in Propel program and in the class of 2020 we will have 2 more students potentially enroll.


Anderson-Butcher, D. (2006). A case for Expanded School-Community Partnerships in Support of Positive Youth                               Development. Children & schools, 28 (3), 155-163.

Hartman,M. A. (2009). Step by step: Creating a community-based transition program for students with intellectual                            disabilities. Teaching Exceptional Children, 41(6), 6-11.

Kotowski, J. (2018, May 22). Module 3 Discussion, Self-Determination. Transition Education and Services  SPED 856.                           University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS.

Kotowski, J.  (2018, November 23). Video Reflection: Independent Living & Advocacy. Interagency Services for Transition                    to Adulthood 859. University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS.

Kotowski, J.  (2018, November 28). Running Project. Interagency Services for Transition to Adulthood 859. University                         of Kansas, Lawrence, KS.

Kotowski, J.  (2019, June 10). Assignment: Juan. Student Engagement in School and Community 863. University of Kansas,              Lawrence, KS.

Martin, J. E., Marshall, L. H., & DePry, R. L. (2008). Participatory decision-making: Innovative practices that increase student               self-determination. In R.W. Flexer, T. J. Simmons, P. Luft, & R. M. Baer (Eds.), Transition planning for secondary                         students with disabilities (3nd edition). Columbus: Merrill Prentice Hall.

MOCSA: Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault: (2019). MOCSA: Metropolitan Organization to Counter                          Sexual Assault.Retrieved November 23, 2019, from

Shogren, K. (2011). Culture and self-determination: A synthesis of the literature and directions for future research and                         practice. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 34(2), 115-127.

The Whole Person (2019). The Whole Person. Retrieved November 23, 2019, from

University of Missouri. (2019). Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS). Retrieved November 23, 2019, from                      

University of Missouri. (2019). Propel Program Retrieved November 23, 2019, from                 program/

Virginia Department of Education Self-Determination Project. (n.d.).I’m Determined! Retrieved November 23, 2019, from          

Wehmeyer, M. L. (2014). Self-determination: A family affair. Family Relations, 63(1), 178-184.

Wehmeyer, M. L., & Gragoudas, S. (2004). Centers for independent living and transition-age youth: Empowerment and                      self-determination. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 20, 53-58.

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (2013). Opening doors to self-determination skills. (Bulletin No.                                          13077). Madison, WI.


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