Self-Determination and Autonomous Motivation

Implications for Students with Intellectual, Developmental, and Specific Learning Disabilities

Authored by: Michael L. Wehmeyer , Karrie A. Shogren

Handbook of Educational Psychology and Students with Special Needs

Print publication date:  February  2020
Online publication date:  February  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138295421
eBook ISBN: 9781315100654
Adobe ISBN:


 Download Chapter



Self-determination is a general psychological construct within the conceptual framework of human agentic theories. People who are self-determined act volitionally and are causal agents in their lives. A substantial amount of theoretical and intervention research has established that self-determination is important to youth with special needs. This is true across all disabilities, but research has primarily focused on students with intellectual disability, developmental, and specific learning disabilities. To assist readers to understand the construct, this chapter will introduce and give an overview of two theories that have utilized the self-determination construct: one a theory of motivation (self-determination theory; SDT) and the other in the broader context of adolescent development and adolescents with special needs, and particularly students with intellectual, developmental, and specific learning disabilities (causal agency theory; CAT). We will examine the role of self-determination in motivation, learning, and development as it has been examined for students with special needs. The chapter will give an overview of theory in self-determination, including a description of a model of the development of self-determination based upon SDT and CAT that explains the development of causal actions and self-determination. Next, we will summarize the research in SDT and CAT to examine teacher practices that are autonomy-supportive and the motivation and developmental implications of such pedagogy for students with intellectual, developmental, and specific learning disabilities, as well as school and adult outcomes. The chapter will then examine instructional models and practices that have been shown to improve outcomes for youth with disabilities. Finally, we will examine future directions for research and practices pertaining to self-determination, autonomous motivation, and students with special needs.

Search for more...
Back to top

Use of cookies on this website

We are using cookies to provide statistics that help us give you the best experience of our site. You can find out more in our Privacy Policy. By continuing to use the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.