Skip to main content

AIR Self-Determination Scale

The American Institutes for Research (AIR) Self-Determination Assessments include student, parent, and educator versions which, together, can identify areas of strength and areas needing improvement. They can be used with all school-age students.

Available from University of Oklahoma Zarrow Center


The American Institutes for Research (AIR), in collaboration with Teachers College of Columbia University in New York City, developed the AIR Self-Determination Assessments, which include student, parent, and educator versions. The AIR Self-Determination Scale provides the following outcomes: profile of the student’s level of self-determination; areas of strength and areas needing improvement; and specific educational goals that can be incorporated into the student’s individual education plan (IEP). There are two broad self-determination components: capacity and opportunity. Capacity refers to the student’s knowledge, abilities, and perceptions that enable him or her to be self-determined. Opportunity refers to the student’s chances to use those knowledge and abilities. The scale measures three components of self-determination: thinking, doing, and adjusting. The total Level of Self-Determination score is reported as a percentage. The scores for Capacity and Opportunity, rated on a Likert system, may be compared to determine relative strengths and weaknesses. These scores are summed to yield an overall Level of Self-Determination, which is reported as a percentage, as well.

These tools are free to use and accessible at the website below the Summary table; the website is an initiative of the University of Kansas and the University of Oklahoma’s Zarrow Center for Learning Enrichment. The User Guide (Wolman, Campeau, Dubois, Mithaug, & Stolarski, 1994; provides definitions of the constructs measured, descriptions of the various scales, instructions for use of the scales, psychometric properties (i.e., reliability, validity, utility), as well as curriculum suggestions for activities to address the student’s needs identified when the scales are used. The goals and objectives may be included in the student IEP. This assessment is used for all school-age students from kindergarten through grade 12, with the goal of eventually being able to make decisions as independent adults. The scales are available in English, Spanish, and French.


Age: All school-age students, beginning in kindergarten

Time to Administer: Not Specified

Method of Administration: Individualized assessment through use of a rating scale with three forms: educator, student, and parent; 5-point Likert-type scale rates students and environments on self- determination components; scores from different raters may be compared
Yields percentages for comparison of Opportunity and Capacity scales, which are summed for overall Level of Self-Determination percentage

Subscales: Overall Score: Level of Self-Determination
Scales (Sections): Capacity (Ability, Knowledge, Perceptions); Opportunity (School, Home)

Autism Related Research

White, Flanagan, & Nadig (2018)

Age Range: 18-29 years

Sample Size: 30

Topics Addressed:

Comparison of SDS and AIR Self-Determination Scale with regard to quality of life (QoL) for persons with ASD

Outcome:White, Flanagan, & Nadig (2018)

Correlational analyses indicated the measures were significantly associated with QoL. Regression analyses revealed that individuals with higher self-determination scores reported higher perceptions of life satisfaction. Thus, self-determination assessed by two complementary measures, was found to be positively associated with QoL.

Conclusion: self-determination focused services and supports could be an effective method of promoting QoL by encouraging more self-determination acquisition and opportunities for young adults with ASD as they transition to adulthood.

Chou et al. (2017)

Age Range: 13-21 years

Sample Size: 95

Topics Addressed:

Reliability, validity, and factor structure of the AIR Self-Determination Scale and the ARC Self-Determination Scale (SDS)

Outcome:Chou et al. (2017)

Findings of this study suggest that (a) the two measures in this study show reliability and validity in the measurement of global self-determination in students with ASD and (b) the parameter estimates and the model fit statistics support the hypothesized factor structure of both instruments (with light variation for the SDS).

Conclusion: both measures have potential to contribute to the measure of overall level of self-determination for students with ASD, though future work is needed with larger and more representative populations, with particular attention to measuring self-realization and psychological empowerment.