Supported Decision-Making (SDM)

What is it?

Supported decision-making (SDM) applies to all types of decision-making. SDM supports people to understand and make decisions about their lives. A person using SDM selects trusted advisors such as family members, friends, or professionals to support them as they make decisions.

These supporters provide the person with a disability the tools to make their own informed decisions by agreeing to help the person with a disability understand and consider their options, and if necessary, communicate the decisions to a third party.

SDM can look different for everyone. It means finding tools and supports to help a person with a disability understand, make, and communicate their own choices.​

SDM is a lot like providing reasonable accommodations: it is about making sure a person can understand decisions that affect their life. Examples of using SDM include helping a person make a decision by:

  • Explaining information in visual or audio form instead of written
  • Giving extra time to discuss choices or try options before making decision
  • Creating lists of likes and dislikes about options to help think through the end result of a decision
  • Role-playing activities to increase understanding of choices
  • Bringing a supporter to help take notes during important appointments
  • Working with a team to make important decisions  like a Circle of Support or an Individual Education Program team.

How do I learn more?

  • You do not need a lawyer to use supported decision-making
  • If you want to talk to a member of the Center for Decision-Making team, who are experienced disability advocates with The Arc Tennessee, go to the contact us page
  • ASAN Easy Read Edition, “Supported Decision-Making
  • National Resource Center for Supported Decision-Making at