Being autonomous is one of the three basic psychological needs as stated by the self-determination theory, and it is a key factor for overall wellbeing. It is also one of the fundamental rights as stated in the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD, United Nations, 2006) which was ratified in the Netherlands in July 2016. The main purpose of this research project is to create more knowledge in the concept of autonomy for youth with visual impairments (VI) and the autonomy supportive practices of their parents and professional care providers. In order to investigate this we first want to define the concept of autonomy for this subpopulation. How do young people, their parents, and professionals conceptualize autonomy? Second, we want to investigate how parents of young people with VI perceive their parenting style towards the autonomy development of their children. Do these parents perceive their parenting style more autonomy-supportive or controlling? Do they perceive a difference in parenting style between parents of children without impairments? Which contextual factors, such as accessibility of the environment or personal factors, do they perceive as potential facilitators or risk factors of an autonomy supportive parenting style? Also, perceptions of adolescents with VI on the topic of autonomy supportive parenting will be explored. Third, we want the explore perceptions of professionals working with youth with VI. How do they define the concept of autonomy for their clients? To what extent do they approach their clients in an autonomy supportive style? How do they perceive the parenting style of parents of children with VI? And which personal or other contextual factors do they relate as important predictors of autonomy? Which suggestions do they have for improvement of interventions for autonomy?
The main aim of this study is to explore the association between a contextual factors (autonomy supportive parenting and guidance style) and autonomy of young people withVI. However, to create a broader picture of facilitators and risk factors related to achieving autonomy, also personal factors, such as characteristics of the impairment, self-esteem, basic psychological need satisfaction, and personality will be studied. These associations will be studied with the use of existing longitudinal datasets and additional questionnaires among youth with VI, their parents, and professionals working within schools and rehabilitation centers providing care to this subpopulation. These insights will also create insight in the complex process of becoming autonomous. In this research project we also want to shed a light into the discrepancies that could exist between the autonomy of youth withVI and their sighted peers. Therefore, results on the concept of autonomy, autonomy support parenting, and autonomy support guidance of itinerant teachers in the VI-group will be compared to a reference group of youth without disabilities, their parents, and teachers. Also, both contextual and personal factors related to autonomy will be assessed within this population.
As described above, in this research project a multiple informant method will be used. All participants participate in qualitative focus groups and a digital questionnaire. The multiple informant method will create a more nuanced and complete picture of the complex concept of the process of becoming autonomous and the way parents and professionals stimulate this. Although the use of a multiple informant method is more time consuming it is especially salient for studies in low prevalence subpopulations, like young people with VI, as it increases the response rate of the study. Also the validity of the research results is enhanced by the use of multiple informants and, thus, stronger conclusions can be made.
Several questions on developing or improving interventions will be included in datacollections and will be discussed with several representatives in our projectcommittee. Results of our projects will be presented in a way that parents and professionals in education and rehabilitation can attune their support to enhance optimal autonomy, necessary for successful societal participation.