Think about your child's ability to make different kinds of decisions

Before you start this process, it's important to think carefully about your child.

What can they do, and what do they need help with?

Here's what you can do:

  • Review the list below.

  • For each area, think and talk about how well your child can do these things on their own.

  • Involve your child in the discussion if possible.

  • Think about how they might develop these abilities as they get older. Many 17-year-olds can't do these things because they've never tried, but they could learn.


  • Seek medical care when they are sick or injured

  • Weigh the risks and benefits of medical procedures

  • Understand the need for routine medical care

  • Understand that they might still need a medical procedure, even if it is painful or unpleasant

  • Decide if taking a certain medicine is important, even though it may have unpleasant side effects

  • Describe their symptoms, conditions, and medical history accurately

  • Follow medical advice and treatment plans


  • Understand their learning issues

  • Understand the services they need at school

  • Advocate for themselves to get the services they need at school


  • Count money

  • Make change

  • Keep their money safe so it's not lost or stolen

  • Keep a monthly spending budget

  • Pay for expenses

Vocational/adult services:

  • Apply for services from government agencies (for example, the Louisiana Rehabilitation Services' Vocational Rehabilitation Program)

  • Access the services they need, like job training, job support, or day programs

  • Advocate for themselves to get the best possible services

Living arrangements:

  • Take care of themselves physically

  • Buy food, clothing, and shelter

  • Live in a group setting and respect other people's need for quiet, privacy, and cleanliness

Legal decision-making:

  • Understand what it means to sign documents

  • Make sound decisions in important life areas like housing, school, and work

Self-care and safety:

  • Use basic safety skills, like staying away from dangerous areas, locking doors, not talking to strangers, and being careful around fires, stoves, candles, etc.

  • Get help during emergencies like fires or accidents


  • Communicate effectively (verbally or by other means)

  • Understand that they have choices

  • Express their preferences


Source: Jackins (2010)