Self-Direction Worldwide: Contrasting Beliefs and their Impact on Practice

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Self-Direction Worldwide: Contrasting Beliefs and their Impact on Practice


Lynn Breedlove

This paper reviews the evolution of self-direction over the last 25 years, and the variety of self-direction definitions, values, and practices around the world. Hopefully it will enable self-direction advocates to learn from each other and incorporate good ideas from other places in their own self-direction approach.

Many definitions of self-direction are cited, illustrating that in some places self-direction is viewed strictly as a way for people to control their paid services, while in other places it is seen as an element of citizenship which applies to a person’s entire life. Some definitions mention the involvement of family or friends in assisting the person to self-direct (if s/he wants or needs that), but some definitions do not. Some people see community integration as an essential part of self-direction; others don’t mention it.

In some places, there is no mention of the need or availability for paid support (beyond family and friends) to enable a person to successfully self-direct. In other places, such supports are considered essential and the paper identifies a variety of support models in place around the world.

A number of challenging questions emerge: Is self-direction a human service program or something bigger? Is community integration a self-direction goal for everyone? Do people who are self-directing have responsibilities to government or to the rest of us? Should people have access to support for self-direction beyond family and friends?

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Join the Discussion


  1. Do you define self-direction as a way to control your services, or as something that relates to your whole life?
  2. Do you think self-direction is something a person has to do on their own, or is it OK to get help from family or friends?
  3. Are there any supports for self-direction described in pg. 10-13 of the paper which are not currently available in Wisconsin, but you wish they were?
  4. Do you believe self-direction could be used to reinforce segregation? If so, how could we safeguard against that?

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