Person Centered Planning

A method of planning stemmed from a person-centered perspective, which seeks to listen, discover and understand the individual. It is a process directed by the person that helps us to learn how they want to live and describes what supports are needed to help them move toward a life they consider meaningful and productive. The planning process empowers the person by building on their individual abilities and skills, building a quality lifestyle that supports the person in finding ways to contribute to their community. Other factors which impact the individual’s life, such as health and wellness, are also considered during the planning process. Knowing and exploring opportunities to use a person’s skills and abilities helps to set a direction while providing positive motivation, and increasing the likelihood of achieving the desired outcomes that are most important to the person receiving supports.


Understanding Person Centered Planning

Person centered planning is the first step towards ensuring the delivery of person centered supports. Person centered planning promotes the belief that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are people first. They have valuable gifts and contributions to bring to relationships with family and friends, and the community as a whole.

Person centered planning views the entire person; not just the portion of the person that has identified needs. In simple terms, person centered planning is an approach to forming life plans that are centered on the individual for whom they are built.


Discovering What’s Important

Person centered planning is a discovery process used to search out what is truly important to and about a person and what capacities and skills that individual possesses. It is values based with the knowledge that each and every individual has unique capacities and skills. It focuses on a positive vision for the future of the person based on his or her strengths, preferences, and capacities for acquiring new skills, abilities, and personality. It focuses on what a person can do versus what a person cannot do. A step-by-step process by a trained facilitator is used to help gather relevant information about a person. Each step contributes to discovering a fuller picture of that person.

The individual is always at the center of the person centered planning process. They are as involved in the planning process as they want to be or are able to be. The planning process is best accomplished when it includes other people who also know the person well and believe in their vision. A group engagement process explores what the person considers to be most important in their current life, which is often shaped by their history and their plans for their personal future. This discovery process emphasizes active listening with a focus on capacities, skill identification and acquisition.


Identifying Desired Personal Outcomes

The person centered process helps to identify desired personal outcomes based on the individual’s life goals, interests, strengths, abilities, desires, and preferences. The process helps to determine the supports and services that the individual needs to work towards to achieve these outcomes and, accordingly, develops a plan that directs the provision of these supports. This includes:

  • Habilitation needs
  • Health care needs
  • Behavioral challenges
  • Strategies to help address these concerns

These strategies encompass staffing support and service needs, or are met by natural or community supports that already exist in a person’s life. The person centered plan is a tool that helps people figure out what they want and need and seeks to identify the kinds of supports necessary to achieve those outcomes.


Developing the Plan

There is not a set way to engage a person centered approach to planning. People are free to express their interests, ideas, and preferences with an expectation that they will be supported and respected by family, friends, and others. The planning process should vary as necessary to adhere to the culture, style, purpose, and vision of the individual.

Person centered planning gives people with intellectual and developmental disabilities the chance to talk about what is important to them and the personal outcomes they want to achieve in their lives. For people who have trouble speaking for themselves, others in their life who know them well and understand what is important to them use their voices to speak on the person’s behalf. The planning process also helps people find out what potential problems might get in the way of reaching their outcomes and develop strategies to help address these things. The resulting plan should help people define their personal goals and highlight strategies that will enable them to pursue their goals and make them a reality in their lives.

It is important to understand that person centered planning will have results that go beyond the making of a plan:

  • It will offer someone who is not usually listened to a chance to take center stage.
  • It will center discussion around what is important to the individual in his or her own words and behaviors, as well as what others feel is important for the person.
  • It will assist others who know and support the person to re-frame their views and perspectives of the person, their capabilities, and their ability to make contributions to their lives and their communities.
  • It will help a group to solve difficult problems or develop strategies to address challenges that may first appear to prevent the person from experiencing interactive community opportunities.


Implementing the Plan

Working together with a unified focus on a short and long-term vision for the person’s life is developed and ultimately put in place for the person to explore and learn what works for him or her. A person’s true life takes many paths. Discovery does not happen once or all at once; sometimes it comes in pieces, or new discoveries are uncovered with each new capacity, new relationship, or new direction. Person centered plans are updated when the individual wants to make changes, or when a goal or aspiration is achieved. In simple terms, person centered planning is a method of forming life plans that are centered on the individual for whom they are built and meet the person where they are at various times in their life.

Person centered thinking challenges us all to actively listen to the people we serve and to those who know them best in order to understand what they want for their lives. This enables us to help support the individual in ways that will increase their success at living as independently as they are able, and allows them to contribute to the extent they choose to community life.

A person centered approach moves us from system-centered thinking, which often focused on custodial care, treatment, filling slots/beds, placements, and closures, to a focus on identifying, focusing on, and meeting a person’s desired experiences for a quality of life while ensuring that these experiences or outcomes occur daily in their lives.