Learn about decision-making options and the importance of building decision-making skills.
People with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) must make many daily and major life decisions, just like people without disabilities. These decisions can range from making simple purchases to managing a budget to talking to a health care provider about medical care.
What supports are available to help people make decisions?
Most people, including people with IDD, can make day-to-day decisions such as what to wear, eat, and do on their own — without supports.
Most people, including people with IDD, make big, important decisions by asking the people they trust for advice. That is called supported decision-making.
Some people with IDD want or need someone to make decisions for them. That is called substitute decision-making.
There are many options for supporting people with IDD to make decisions. It is important that people and their families understand these options and make a plan that works best for that person.
Don't most people with IDD need a guardian?
Most people with IDD can make their own decisions, just like people without disabilities, with whatever support they want and need. It is important for families, educators, providers, doctors, and others to understand the limits of guardianship. Every state has its own guardianship laws and process. Guardianship should only be considered as a last option after less restrictive alternatives have been explained and made available to people with IDD.
Why should I plan for decision-making in the future?
People and their families need to be prepared for changes in a person's ability to make their own decisions.
- Who makes decisions when a person suddenly becomes unable to make their own decisions? What if the person is slowly becoming unable to make their own decisions because of dementia?
- Who makes decisions if a person has a guardian, and the guardian can't be located? What if the guardian becomes ill or dies?
- What should the person, family member, or guardian do if a person no longer needs a guardian and can make their own decisions?
It is important to plan for these changes so that people with IDD are not inappropriately placed under guardianship when other options are available and so that their right to make their own decisions about their lives is respected.