Three important things to remember about being a good decision supporter

1. Risk taking is part of decision making

When we make a decision we don’t always know what the outcome of that decision will be. We might be aware that something negative may happen but we often move ahead knowing that is a risk. For example, you may choose to lend your car to your son or daughter who is an inexperienced driver. You worry that they are inexperienced however you also know that in order for them to get more experience they will need to drive. You make the decision to lend them your car even though you know there is a risk that they may have an accident.

Supporting someone to make a decision that has risk is really hard. We do not want the people we support to be hurt emotionally, physically or financially. We want to protect them from harm.  However if we do not allow the decision maker to take risks we are denying them of the opportunity to try new things and to learn and grow. 

The supporter’s role is to help the decision maker work through the possible risks. The supporter can do this by helping the decision maker to think about:

  • why they want to make the decision
  • what the risks are
  • how to make things safer

Watch the video where Luke and his supporter Cameron talk about managing risk.

Lily was really keen to cook at home after learning to cook at school. I didn’t want her to, because I was worried about her hurting herself and also if I showed her how to cook she might try it while I’m not home and might burn down the house! It was just too risky. I knew Lily wasn’t happy about it so she talked to our family friend Liz.


Liz called me and suggested I talk to the school to see what they do to make things safer in the kitchen for the students. The teacher gave me some ideas and suggestions of things I can buy, for example Lily now wears a metal glove to prevent cuts when she is using a knife.


All those things were really helpful and over time I started to let Lily do more and more in the kitchen. Now we cook dinner often together and I think I have even cut myself more than she has!

Picture of Cathy

2. Avoid influencing someone’s decision

Sometimes we might try and change the mind of the decision maker without meaning to do so.

This can happen when we feel very strongly that one option is better than the others.

To avoid influencing the decision maker the supporter should:

  • Present the positive and negative outcomes of each option. Do not be more negative about the options you do not like.  
  • Give the person the facts without giving them advice about what they should do.
  • Avoid sharing your personal feelings and opinions. Instead, stick to the facts.

I can make decisions that other people don’t like.

Portrait of Lily

3. Reflect on how you went

It is really important to reflect on how you acted each time you support someone to make a decision.

You will not be the perfect supporter the first time you try it and that is ok. Learning a new skill can be challenging and you are likely to make a mistake along the way.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • Did my ideas or opinions effect the decision?
  • Did I focus on what the person wanted (their will and preference) instead of what I thought is best for them?
  • Did I provide all relevant options or just those I thought was best for the person?
  • Is there anything I can do differently next time?

Supporting Lily to make decisions takes time and I can’t always do it on my own, her speech therapist is a big help. I don’t always get it right but I try my best and I think I’m getting better at it over time.

Picture of Cathy

Watch the video where Rajni reflects on a time when things did not go well.