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Person Centered Planning (PCP) is a valuable tool that can be used in a variety of ways to assist in meaningful planning for learners of all ages. However, it differs from typical educational planning in some significant ways. Most people are probably most familiar with educational planning that involves:

• assessment of current performance levels;
• an annual IEP meeting;
• identification of appropriate benchmarks;
• development of goals for reaching the identified benchmarks;
• educational strategies to improve student performance; and,
• procedures to monitor progress toward benchmarks and goals.

This type of educational planning typically focuses on disabilities, needs and deficits and is driven primarily by professionals/educational personnel. The following chart provides information about the differences between typical educational planning and the person centered planning process.

                        Typical Educational Planning                              Person Centered Planning
School decides when, where and who should meet; professionals take the lead                                     Family decides who to invite and where to meet; learner/family take lead
Team is composed mainly of school personnel and heavily weighted with professionals Team is composed of a broad spectrum of individuals who know the learner in a variety of settings
Relies on formal measures and results of standardized assessments Relies on information supplied by persons who know the learner in a variety of ways
Meets annually (unless additional meetings requested by family or educational team) Whole team or certain members meet when necessary
Much of the information gathering takes place prior to the meeting Participants provide information and develop plan during the meeting(s)
Focus is on where the learner ought to be Focus is on where the learner wants to be
Primarily considers educational goals Takes a holistic approach, setting educational goals in the context of life planning
May focus on deficits, weaknesses Always focuses on positive qualities, strengths and interests
Emphasizes skills needed for academic and/or vocational progress

Emphasizes skills needed for education, employment or volunteer activities, independent living skills and community participation

The most important difference in person centered planning is the focus on the learner and the family as the leaders in the process. A Person Centered Plan focuses on the positive, highlighting the learner’s abilities and interests, rather than dwelling on a his or her shortcomings and challenges. This is sometimes a new experience for families and professionals alike.

Person Centered Planning offers the opportunity to dream, affirming the fact that all families have dreams for their children. Some PCP tools also provide a chance to talk about fears, which validates family concerns while offering a positive atmosphere in which to plan for the future.


Different Styles Used in Person Centered Planning

Person centered planning is a way of thinking about people with value and respect.  It is a process of self-evaluation, discussion and planning that supports a learner’s efforts to achieve his or her life dreams and goals. There are no “cookbook” solutions and no one prescribed method of doing things.  A variety of different approaches can be taken to facilitate the person centered planning process. Here are brief overviews of several PCP approaches:

Personal Futures Planning

Personal Futures Planning (Mount, 1991)

This process results in a personal plan, created to highlight an individual’s strengths in order to create a positive vision of the future. Personal Futures Planning involves the creation of a set of “maps” which illustrate and record basic information about an individual, as well as specifics about preferences, interests, positive characteristics and dreams for the future. 

Certain maps are recommended to be included in every plan and other maps are selected according to needs. The process builds a circle of people (support) that provide support to the learner as he or she moves toward the vision. The circle of support tries new ideas, reflects on what happens, and then revises ideas and actions as needed to continue to move ahead (Mount, 1991). You will see a variety of map examples in the implementation section, called "And They're Off . . ."

PATH (Plan for Alternative Tomorrows with Hope

Plan for Alternative Tomorrows with Hope: A Workbook for Planning Positive Possible Futures (Pearpoint, O'Brien & Forest, 1993)

PATH is an eight-step tool that begins with a future vision/goal/dream and works backward to identify specific activities on the journey toward its realization.  The step-by-step format is straightforward and builds both short and long term action steps directly into the process.  It has been used successfully to plan for groups as well as for individuals (Pearpoint, O'Brien & Forest, 1993).

PATH Process: Eight Steps

1. Touching the Dream (the "North Star")

2. Sensing the Goal

3. Grounding in the Now

4. Identifying People to Enroll

5. Recognizing ways to Build Strength

6. Charting Action for the Next Few Months

7. Planning Next Month's Work

8. Committing to the Final Step


McGill Action Planning System (Falvey, Forest, Pearpoint, & Rosenberg, 1995)

MAPS helps bring together the key people in someone’s life to develop a support plan by answering the following questions.

What is the person’s history or story?
What are your dreams?
What are your fears?
Who is this person?
What are the person’s strengths, gifts, talents?
What does the person’s need?
What is the plan of action (to overcome the fears and turn dreams into reality)?

Supplied with a shared understanding of a person and his or her needs, an individualized plan is developed that can be used to address educational and community participation goals.The final two questions form the basis of an action plan and participants leave the MAPS session with specific tasks to be completed to assist in carrying out the plan (Falvey, Forest, Pearpoint, & Rosenberg, 1995).


Custom or Individualized Planning

There is not one universal formula for a person centered plan. Some people always use one particular style or set of tools.  Others pick and choose maps or pieces from different tools, based on learner or family needs. What is most important is that the basic elements are present. This module discusses a person centered planning process that does not follow any one approach exactly, but is closely modeled on Personal Futures Planning by Beth Mount and MAPS. Some customization has been made to help provide the most meaningful information for teams working with learners with disabilities, including those with multiple disabilities and/or combined vision and hearing loss.


Characteristics of the Person Centered Planning Process

Watch and listen to the following video in preparation for the next section in this module (Plan for the Day). It describes the characteristics of person centered planning and the value of bringing together a group of people who each know a learner in a particular way in order to create a "whole picture" of that person.


 << Back to Module Intro   |   "And They're Off. . . " - Implementing the Person Centered Planning Process >>