No one makes decisions, especially big decisions, entirely on his or her own. If you are buying a car, or renting an apartment, considering taking a job, or getting married, you are almost certain to consult with friends and acquaintances, and otherwise seek information that will assist you in the decision. That is, we all use “supports” of some kind in our decision-making.

People with intellectual and developmental disabilities are no different, except that they may need more or different supports in order to make and implement their decisions. They may need someone to gather information and/or to present it in simple language; assistance in weighing alternatives and considering the consequences that may likely flow from a decision or lack of decision; assistance in communicating their decision to third parties; and assistance in implementing the decision.

When people with intellectual or developmental disabilities choose trusted persons to support them, in whatever ways they need, in order to make their own decisions, they are engaging in “supported decision-making” or SDM. Often this happens informally, but SDM may also be a more formal process in which the person with an intellectual or developmental disability and her or his supporters enter into a contract or agreement called the Supported Decision-Making Agreement or SDMA.