The Value of Person Centered Planning

The core of person-centered planning is to empower the person who uses paid supports to make decisions and choices that direct and shape his/her own life. The goal is to move from a needs-based system to a support-based approach. The support-based approach helps to develop personal goals and a life that is meaningful to the person using supports, while still addressing their health and safety. Person-centered planning always includes the person who is the focus of the plan and other people who are selected by them to participate. This leads to the achievement of goals that are meaningful to that person.

 Person-centered planning approaches vary, however, according to O’Brien and Lovett in Finding a Way Toward Everyday Lives (1992), they are all characterized by the following five elements:

  1. The person at the focus of planning and those who love him/her are the primary authorities on their life direction. The essential questions are, “Who is this person?” and “What community opportunities will enable this person to pursue his/her interests in a meaningful way?”
  2. Person-centered planning aims to change common patterns of community life. It stimulates community hospitality and enlists community members in assisting someone to define and work toward a desirable future. It helps create positive community roles for people with disabilities.
  3. Person-centered planning requires learning through experiences of everyone working and thinking together and strives to eliminate separating people from the community, or controlling someone else’s life.
  4. Honest person-centered planning comes from respectfully treating all people as contributing members of society.
  5. Assisting people to define and pursue a desirable future requires DSPs to focus on the goals of those they support, make a commitment to assist them, and have the determination and courage to help break down barriers.

Consider For A Moment

It is Saturday and you are planning on sleeping late after a really hard week at work. Just as you start a really good dream, you are transported to another life. In this life, a woman comes into your bedroom, throws open your curtains, and says, “Good morning!  How are you today?” You glance at the clock, 7am, and then try to roll over thinking it is just a nightmare, but the woman comes over to your bed and pulls the covers off. “Are you ready to get up? Breakfast is hot and you need to eat.” In this new life, someone else chooses where you live. In your new home, you are told what time you will get up, what time you will go to bed, what you will eat, what you will wear, what you will do with your day, whom you spend time with and where you go. In this new life no one asks what you prefer or cares what routines and rituals comfort you and add to your happiness. No one has asked who is important in your life, who you love and like to spend time around. Is this the kind of life you would want to lead? Do you see the importance of person-centered planning?

Person-centered planning promotes the value that the wishes of a person are to be honored, based on what he/she considers important to them. These wishes might be stated verbally, communicated in non-traditional ways (such as through a person’s behavior), or identified by other people who know them well.

It is important that people know their wishes are not just written in a plan, but are “heard” and honored through positive acceptance, regular encouragement and daily actions. DSPs must be creative to ensure that people are “heard” by those who support them, and that their choices are respected and followed.

Person-centered planning puts into practice ensuring that wishes (important to) are respectfully balanced with need for support to stay healthy, safe, and a valued member of the community (important for).

Listen to: A Credo for Support by Norman and Emma Kuntz for additional perspectives on support.