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The map descriptions, in the table below, are accompanied by picture examples and most include video clips. The video comes from a person centered planning meeting, which took place in Feb 2016, at the University of North Carolina’s Friday Center in Chapel Hill, NC., during a training for PCP facilitators.  The authors are grateful for the team who participated in the PCP training for their contribution to this module.

Basic Maps

Background/History Map

The value of this map is its ability to illustrate what a family has been through, giving the entire team a sense of what life has been like. Previously unknown circumstances may be discovered by certain team members, increasing understanding and empathy. When everyone is aware of the learner's history, this shared knowledge serves as the basis from which to celebrate accomplishments, acknowledge challenges and move forward as a team.

When creating this map the team leader/facilitator may ask for clarification but must be careful to remain objective. Positive, negative or neutral indicators illustrate the family's perspective of events in the learner's life. It is important to ask the family what color or symbol to use, rather than to assume the impact of a particular event. For example: a divorce might be seen as a negative experience by one family, but divorce in another family may have had a positive impact because it ended a very difficult situation.

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Relationship Map

This map recognizes key persons in the learner's life and visually demonstrates their relationships to the learner.  It can illustrate personal supports, as well as opportunities to build friendships and identify potential communication partners. Figures or names are recorded in each section, based on their relationship to the learner (closer in to the center indicates greater involvement and support). The visual nature of this map gives immediate indications of the levels of support provided by various people. Strengths, as well as gaps, are easily recognized. 

Sometimes this map is completed first as a way to introduce persons present at the meeting. They are asked to share their name, relationship to the learner and where to place themselves on the map, including what section and how close to the learner. The team leader can then ask the learner or a parent to add important family members, friends and other professionals. Everyone named should be included, even if the composition of the family and/or friends may seem non-traditional. Once the family has named important relationships, other participants are asked to add anyone they feel is missing.


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Who is ________?

This map provides participants with the opportunity to create a positive picture of the student, based on the collective knowledge that each team member brings to the process. Participants often report this map as being a favorite and appreciate the observations and insights offered. Knowledge of a student’s strengths and positive characteristics have the power to change the perspective of individuals who work with the child, as well as to provide a base of abilities on which to build. A typical way to begin building this map is to ask the individual or a family member for a positive word or phrase that describes themselves/their child. Continue around the group, then repeat, continuing until everyone has had the opportunity to list every quality they want to add.  It is sometimes necessary to remind participants that all descriptors must be reported in positive terms.

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Dreams/Fears Maps

The purpose of these maps is to understand hopes and fears about the future through the eyes of the learner and his or her family. The team should hear the learner's dreams and fears first, then those of his or her family, followed by the dreams and fears of other team members.

Discussing fears is a valuable experience. It is something that families and others who care about a particular learner sometimes cannot or do not want to talk about. However, the atmosphere and safe environment of a person centered planning meeting makes it easier to acknowledge fears, whether they be large or small. Once this map is created, the skills and activities needed to realize dreams and overcome fears become the basis to determine goals.

It is important to acknowledge each dream and fear, defer judgments and avoid comments about feasibility. Whether future dreams change or remain unfulfilled this map should allow every team member to express their greatest hopes and expectations. It is also important to note that these dreams and fears may not be at all the same; sometimes the learner may have a dream that is, in fact, a parent’s fear (learning to drive, for example).

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  Many facilitators prefer to create separate maps for dreams and fears.


Preferences Map

The purpose is to create a list that can serve as a guide for a variety of decisions, including: activities to try (or not), possible job explorations, deciding where to live or planning a successful party or family outing. Such a map serves as a tool to discover capacities to build on and, in some instances, conditions to avoid. It illustrates the learner's gifts, interests and unique contributions and their challenges/dislikes.

Reviewing this list can provide a means to discover potential links and patterns. Professionals and family members alike often become aware of new ideas to try based on new insight about how the student responds in other settings, with other people or to different opportunities. Such information is very valuable when planning instructional strategies and/or planning activities beyond school.


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 Preferences Map