Self-Determination and Person Centered Planning

Personal Futures Planning

Personal Futures Planning is two things. It is a plan, and it is a problem solving process. It begins with a small group of people who get together and brainstorm to develop strategies for success with a person with disabilities. From these strategies they take action to accomplish positive changes for the person with whom they are concerned. You are probably wondering who is this “group of people”? The people involved in this planning process are those who care about and are close to the focus person. This can include family, friends, advocates, service providers, etc., and of course, the focus person himself or herself is the most important member of this group!

This small group focuses on opportunities for the person so that he or she may successfully develop relationships, be involved with the community, have control over his or her life, and develop the skills and abilities necessary to reach his or her goals. A personal futures plan is a vision. It is a person’s vision of what that person wants to be and wants to do. Just like you, as people with disabilities grow and experience new things their goals change. The plan is flexible, and changes accordingly as new opportunities and obstacles arise.

The main focus is on the skills, talents, and abilities of the person—never on what he or she cannot do. Personal futures planning is “person-centered”. It differs from other planning programs in that the focus is not on services. Rather it focuses on exactly what needs to be done to allow the person to fully participate in society. Once this is determined, the individuals involved in the planning do what they can to make it happen.

Now that you have an understanding of what person centered planning is all about, let’s look at some of the dynamics of this process.

Who’s Involved?

Besides those mentioned above, there can be others involved in this process as well. For example, potential allies may be asked to participate, as well as people who provide direct support, and/or people with technical or resource expertise. And of course, the person for whom the plan is being made must always be involved in the planning process!

Where to Meet?

The meetings should be held in a casual, comfortable setting, in which the focus person feels ‘at home’. It is also important that meetings are held on the focus person’s own territory. Some examples may be his or her home, a library, or a church. A poor example of a meeting location choice might be an agency conference room, or doctor’s office. In these locations, other members of the team may feel that the professionals that work in that setting have the most to offer to the process. Meeting locations should be convenient as well.

When to Meet?

Quite simply, meetings should be held as needed. Whenever there is a need for change is when the group should meet for discussion. Meeting times need to be convenient to all parties involved. It is always a good idea to schedule a date for the next meeting at the end of each meeting, if possible. The group shouldn’t limit itself to meeting only in times of need, but to celebrate accomplishments as well!

The personal futures planning process involves three main steps. These steps are:

  1. Creating a personal profile. This should include comprehensive information about the person for whom the plan is being created, including but not limited to: past events, future ideas and desires, opportunities, and obstacles. This information can be obtained through a group interview.

  2. Planning. Based on this collection of information, a plan is developed. First the personal profile is reviewed. Then, environmental trends are considered. For example, depending on the current state of the economy, funding may be an issue. Next, the team needs to identify obstacles, opportunities, and strategies for getting started.

  3. Commitment. The group forms a support network to help the person carry out the plan. This support network is there to make sure that the plan really happens.

Personal futures planning is a reflection of a changing belief system regarding individuals with disabilities. In the past, people with disabilities were often ignored and had all of their decisions made for them. We now realize that this will not work. If plans are to be made for a person, that person should be involved in the making of that plan, and the plan should revolve around the focus person’s wants and desires. Better yet, the person with the disability should direct the creation of the plan to the greatest extent possible! This is exactly what personal futures planning is all about.

Finally, personal futures planning is about not always relying on the formal service system, but relying on friends, neighbors, family, and others in the community who can often accomplish what the formal service system cannot. Personal futures planning does not start from the idea of what services are available (and then fitting the person into the services), but rather what the person wants and needs, and then building a life around those dreams.

Write a one page description of why you think this planning process is important for students with disabilities. Also, imagine using this for a person without disabilities and include your thoughts and/or ideas about this.