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Supported Decision Making: An Alternative to Guardianship

October 19, 2021
Adult Life, Family Support

Supported Decision Making (SDM) encourages and guides a person with an Intellectual Disability/Developmental Disability (ID/DD) to be the driving force in making decisions for their lives.

What is Supported Decision Making?

SDM allows a person with ID/DD to use support to make their own decisions. Guardianship is where the court appoints a guardian to make decisions for an individual. 

Who makes the decisions?

The individual with a disability makes all decisions with clear and specific support from their established network. From deciding to seek out SDM to choosing their support network, they are the decision-maker throughout the entire process. 

What does the SDM process look like?

A person with ID/DD chooses trusted advisors, such as friends, family, or professionals, to serve as supporters in their decision-making process.

How do Supporters guide the individual?

Supporters help individuals find useful information, guide them to weigh the pros and cons, and assist them to communicate decisions to third parties, and/or carry out decisions.

How is SDM documented?

It can be a written agreement such as a Supported Decision Making Agreement (SDMA) or an informal one.

Is SDM a legal agreement?

No. In New York State, these agreements are not legal. However, legislation has been filed to legalize and legitimize the process.

Why is SDM important?

There has been a switch in how we view disability from the “caregiver” approach to  a “rights-based” approach. Under SDM, a person maintains all of their civil rights, including rights to contract, vote, and marry, which are key to respecting an individual’s dignity and personhood. 

What are the benefits of SDM?

SDM empowers persons with disabilities by nurturing their self-determination and advocacy skills while also providing a transformational experience for all the parties involved in the process. Learn more

How do I know if SDM is for me or someone I know?

Every person with a disability is different and they have their unique family structure. This is a personal decision that should be centered around the person with ID/DD. 
For more information, visit or watch this video