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Supported Decision Making

Information and Resources

What is Supported Decision-Making?

Supported decision-making (SDM) is a tool for people with disabilities to make choices about their own lives with support from a team. With SDM, people with disabilities keep their legal rights. They can choose people they know and trust to help make decisions. These team members help the person to understand and think about all parts of choice. Then the person with a disability makes their own decision. 

How do I use Supported Decision-Making in my life?

Everyone uses support to make decisions. Depending on your life circumstances, you may rely on informal advice from your trusted friends and family members, or you may need formal, legal assistance to make decisions. In extreme circumstances, you might need someone to make decisions for you. Here are some tools to help figure out what’s best for YOUR LIFE:

Read written testimony from a Massachusetts self-advocate in support of supported decision-making legislation in his state, talking about why SDM is important to him.

Read "Informed Decision Making: It Takes More Than Practice" by Green Mountain Self Advocates and Self Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE).

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.

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!

Learn more on your own by watching this Transition Tennessee Webinar on Supported Decision Making featuring Lauren Pearcy, Council Public Policy Director and Carrie Guiden, The Arc Tennessee Executive Director. You can also watch this Transition Tennessee video featuring national legal expert Jonathan Martinis talking about supported decision making.


Tennessee 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 disability organizations in Tennessee working together on this topic: TN Council on Developmental Disabilities, The Arc Tennessee, and Disability Rights TN, as well as other partners.

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

This Page Last Updated: March 23, 2020 at 2:16 PM