Supported Decision-Making (SDM)

Some decisions are easy to make, and some decisions are hard, but you have the right to make your own decisions. For the decisions that are harder or more complicated, or have more risk, you may want someone who knows you and who you trust to help you make those decisions.
Supported decision-making (SDM) is a way for you to choose:

  • which kinds of decisions– like healthcare or money– you want support with;
  • who you trust to be your supporters;
  • what kinds of support you want from them; and
  • how you want to receive that support.

SDM also means that the people you choose as supporters agree to support you to make your own decisions, and not to make those decisions for you. Guardians make decisions for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. SDM is a way to avoid having a guardian and keeping all your rights.

Choosing Supporters

When you choose the kinds of decisions you want support with, you should also choose the person or persons you want to give that support to you.
Supporters can be family members, friends, neighbors, teachers or direct support professionals (DSPs).

You could have one supporter or a number of supporters. For example, you might want your mom to support you with healthcare decisions, your dad to support you with decisions about money, your sister or a friend to support you with decisions about dating and relationships, or you might want one person to support you in all kinds of decisions.

It’s up to you! But be sure to choose people who know you well and who you trust.

Making Plans for The Future

Sometimes it’s harder to make plans for the future, like whether to stay in school, or to move into your own apartment, than to make decisions in the present, like what to wear or what to eat for dinner. Planning for the future means that you need to think about many different things that might happen, and make a good choice about how to get to where you want to go.

Planning for the future usually requires a lot of information about the possible outcomes of a choice you might make. Your supporters can help collect that information, give it to you in a way that you understand, and help you weigh your choices.

What happens in the future also depends on many small choices that you make along the way. So if you decide you want to go on in school, you will need to work hard in the present, learn about schools that have good programs for you, figure out how to pay for school, decide where you will live, and many other things. Having supporters to help you think all this through and to encourage you to take the steps you need to reach your goal, will make it much more likely that your plans will actually come true.

Making Supported Decision-Making Agreements (SDMAs)

Once you have decided the areas you want help in and chosen the people to be your supporters, you will want to talk with them about what you expect and how you expect them to support you.

Example: You have trouble understanding healthcare issues and don’t always get what the doctor is saying. You may choose your friend to be your supporter, to come with you to doctors’ appointments, and to explain, in simple language the choices that you have. Then you can make your own decision, and if you have trouble speaking, or speaking clearly, your supporter can communicate your decision to the doctor. But remember, it is YOUR decision!

A trained facilitator can assist you in identifying areas where you want support, and helping you choose your support or supporters. When you and your supporters have come to an agreement about how the support will work, the facilitator will write it up into a contract, which we call the SDMA, that you all will sign.

You always have the right to change what is in the contract or who your supporters are.