Do We All Have the Right to Make Choices?

Can people with learning disabilities make the same choices as people without?

Rachel Dodman
5 min readNov 4, 2020


Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash

My son is 22 and has autism and learning disabilities. He has lived in a lovely care home for the last 3 years.

When he lived with me, I gave him managed choices. He could choose between 2 things — orange or blackcurrant, wash up or load the washing machine, walk or cycle. It worked well — he felt he had choices, but he couldn’t make harmful choices, and we could allow him to learn from mistakes without coming to harm.

Now he’s an adult he has adult choices. What would you like to eat? Would you like to go out? Do you want to go to college? And he is not making great choices. He’s eating pizza, hot dogs and sausage rolls, not going out and not going to college. He’s becoming lazy, rude and entitled — expecting other people to do things for him.

I’ve been finding this incredibly frustrating. I can see all of the things I worked on when he was small being undone. It’s also harmful to my son who is becoming reclusive and depressed — without understanding that it’s the result of his actions.

I’m not sure whether it’s appropriate that my son can make choices that are harmful to him. Should he be protected from harming himself or does he have the right to make bad decisions?

Do I have as many choices as my son?

I am a freelance writer/author. If I choose not to work, I don’t get paid. If I was employed and I chose not to go into work, I’d get sacked!

If I eat a lot of unhealthy foods I’ll get ill and my clothes won’t fit.

If I don’t go out, I become lonely and unhappy.

I have the choice to do the things that are not good for me — but I chose not to because I can see that the consequence won’t be good. My son finds that type of thinking quite hard. He’s not good at seeing the ‘bigger picture’ or seeing consequences.
So — is it fair to let him have the same choices?
Surely it is unkind and unethical to set someone up to fail? But on the other hand, adults with disabilities are still adults — not allowing them choices is infantilising them.



Rachel Dodman

Rachel is a freelance writer from the UK. Check out her latest novella Downhill From Wednesday on Amazon!