Self-Determination and Person Centered Planning


Making Action Plans (MAPS) is a process of planning for the integration and participation of students with disabilities in general education classrooms with their peers. First, a problem-solving team must be established. This team may consist of the student, family members, peer buddies, friends, and school personnel. It is important that the peers who are included know the student well. This is an area where peer buddies can be very helpful! Once the team is assembled, a recorder and a facilitator are chosen. This team will then work together to address seven major questions. The facilitator will guide the group through this process, and the recorder will write down the ideas and responses of the group members. The seven key questions that the group must examine are as follows while always keeping the student at the center :

  1. Who is the student?
  2. What are the student's abilities, strengths, and talents?
  3. What are the students needs?
  4. What is the student’s history?
  5. What are the dreams for the student?
  6. What are the nightmares for the student?
  7. What would the student’s ideal day look like? (This is the Action Planning step)

The student’s history would involve things that have affected the student’s life to this point, and generally the parent gives the student’s history. Examples would be milestones, periods of hospitalization, critical illnesses, etc. It is important that everyone understand “where the student has come from” and what his or her life has been like up to that point.

Dreams for the student will differ depending on the different people responding. A teacher’s dream may be that the student successfully completes high school, and finds a job. On the other hand, a parent’s dream for the same student may be that his or her child goes to college after high school and lives independently in the community. A peer may hope that student will always have friends that he or she can talk to. Everyone should participate in this step and the steps that follow, including the student for whom the MAPS is about!

Nightmares can consist of anything from worrying that a student will not have any friends to the fear that the student will one day be institutionalized. Nightmares can be difficult to face, but we have to acknowledge that without careful planning, our fears may be realized. When answering the question “Who is the student?” the members of the team have the chance to mention any and all of the student’s characteristics of which they can think. Examples may be that the student is cheerful, a good friend, helpful, stubborn, playful, funny, sometimes lazy, has a good memory, loves animals, enjoys cooking, etc.

Once the team has taken a good look at exactly who the student is, they then examine that student’s strengths, abilities, and talents. Gifts are important in each of our lives, but especially for students with significant disabilities, for whom people may have always spoken mainly of their weaknesses and deficits. We need to acknowledge those gifts, and we do so in this step! The sixth step is to identify the student’s needs. All of us have needs, and each of our lives can be better if we can meet those needs. For a student with a significant disability, those needs might include being able to communicate better with his peers, having the appropriate modifications and supports to succeed in a general education class, being able to participate in extracurricular activities that he enjoys, or having friends over during the weekend.

The last step to the MAPS process is asking what an ideal day would look like for the student; this is the action planning step in which we address the student’s needs. When thinking about this “ideal day”, it is most important to consider what has to be done to make this happen. With dedication, teamwork, and care, this can be done to ensure that the student is getting the most out of his or her educational experience, including extracurricular activities. Remember that in planning for the ideal day, everyone on the team, including the student’s peers – – ESPECIALLY THE STUDENT should play a role in coming up with the Action Plan. Do not let this last step involve just the adults!

MAPS helps to make the philosophy that “everybody belongs” come alive. It helps students not only become more included in their school, but it also allows them to bring their gifts to the general education classroom, and their peers. The quality of education is enhanced for everyone. Now that you have learned about a planning process that is typically used for people who are still in school, you will be able to complete the activity below and then we will move on to another planning process that can be used with persons of any age.

Make an effort to become involved with the MAPS process. Perhaps you could be the recorder for a student's MAP, lead a portion of a student's MAP, or observe during a MAPS session. Talk to your teacher about possible ways to participate. If MAPS isn't being used in your school talk with your teacher about the process that is used. Write a summary describing how the process is similar and different from MAPS.