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Supported Decision Making

Information and Resources

What is Supported Decision Making?

Supporting a person in making decisions without removing their rights. 

Supported Decision Making is about helping people with disabilities make as many decisions about their own lives as possible. Conservatorship allows someone else to make decisions for you. Right now, many Tennesseans do not know there are other options for help in making decisions. The Council is working to educate Tennesseans with disabilities, their families and professionals who support them about less restrictive alternatives like supported decision making.

Read more from the national level at:

Why is Supported Decision Making important for people with disabilities?

Individuals and families do not always know about the range of options for helping people with decisions. For example, you can write Powers of Attorney that cover specific areas (like financial, medical decisions) without going to court. You can work with your school district to grant permission for a parent to attend IEP meetings without obtaining conservatorship after you turn 18.

It’s worth exploring your unique needs and finding what works best for you!

Want to read more? Download our one-pager on Supported Decision Making.

Check out this video made by our partners at The Arc Tennessee, who participate in the Supported Decision Making workgroup along with the Council and many other disability organizations in TN. The video features a number of graduates and family members of graduates of our Partners in Policymaking Leadership Institute.

How do I use Supported Decision Making in my life?

The first step is to identify which decisions in your life you may want or need help making. Here are some tools to get you started:

  1. This booklet is designed for self-advocates to start using supported decision making, developed by the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN).
  2. This short paper is designed to walk you through “Setting the Wheels in Motion” for using Supported Decision Making, including step-by-step guides
  3. This worksheet helps you figure out in which areas a person wants assistance making decisions, developed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
  4. This Stoplight tool also helps you determine in which areas a person may need or want assistance, using a colorful stoplight metaphor: green for areas the person can always make decisions, yellow for sometimes needing help in making decisions, red for not at all. This tool was developed by the University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC) University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities.
  5. This Supports Star tool for decision-making can help individuals or families brainstorm what supports someone might use to help them make choices. This tool was developed by the University of Missouri (UMKC) Kansas City University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, which the Tennessee Council partnered closely with through our Supporting Families Community of Practice initiative.

Council Training Resources

With the help of national experts, the Council has developed expertise and training about Supported Decision Making. Contact Lauren Pearcy (; 615.741.5019) if you are interested in learning more!


Tennessee recently enacted legislation to advance Supported Decision Making. Read an explanation of what the law does and does not do here.

3 photos with accompanying blocks of text: 1) about a dozen disability advocates, self-advocates and Sen. Becky Massey at the Sept. 2016 summer study hearing for the supported decision making legislation posing for a group photo at the legislature; beside the photo it says “Supported Decision Making”, under the Council logo; 2) text reads: On April 2, 2018, Gov. Bill Haslam signed SB264/HB941, Tennessee’s supported decision making legislation. Photo shows Council Policy Director Lauren Pearcy, Council Executive Director Wanda Willis and Dept. of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities staff Theresa Sloan seated at a desk with microphones, testifying at a legislative committee hearing about supported decision making; 3) final photo shows about a dozen adults who are members of the Council’s Employment Roundtable, along with national expert Jonathan Martinis; text reads: “We are proud to have worked with the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Becky Massey (R-Knoxville) & Rep. Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah) and a workgroup of 8 disability organizations on bringing this topic to TN. We will continue working together to educate Tennesseans about how to use Supported Decision Making.”]

Supported Decision Making Workgroup

The TN Council on Developmental Disabilities is part of a Supported Decision Making Workgroup, comprised of 8 disability organizations in Tennessee working together on this topic: TN Council on Developmental Disabilities, The Arc Tennessee, Disability Rights TN, TN Statewide Independent Living Council, Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, Family Voices TN, the TN Disability Coalition, and STEP (Support and Training for Exceptional Parents – TN).

group of about 15 adults with and without disabilities representing the above disability agencies in tn

This Page Last Updated: July 20, 2018 at 2:20 PM