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Implementing the Person Centered Planning Process

Knowing and understanding the person centered planning process involves more than drawing a map or listing what a student likes and dislikes. The purpose and philosophy of the process must be understood and embraced. It is important to remember that person centered planning is an ongoing, collaborative process which includes:

  • identifying who to include in the initial PCP meeting;
  • creating a person centered plan (also called “maps”);
  • developing an action plan to work toward turning dreams into reality and overcoming fears; and,
  • establishing a team of supportive individuals who commit to be involved in implementing the plan.

Identifying Who to Include

Identifying who to include in the initial PCP meeting

The suggestion to use the person centered planning process may come from a family member, teacher, agency representative or another support person (for example, a technical assistance provider from your state’s deaf-blind project). Regardless of who initiates the process, it’s important that the family play a significant role in determining who is invited to participate, as well as when and where it should take place. Working to build a person centered planning team provides families the opportunity to take a more proactive role in planning. It acknowledges their expertise and places families and professionals on a more equal level.

Creating a Person Centered Plan

Creating a Person Centered Plan

The initial meeting is the first step in the PCP process. The learner and his or her family take the lead in organizing it, often assisted by school or agency personnel familiar with the process. There are several practices that are important in order to have a successful meeting. These are typically undertaken by a trained facilitator who conducts the meeting, but are important for the entire team to understand. The team leader/facilitator is responsible for:

  • Understanding the desired outcome – It is important to know why the team is doing a person centered plan. Is he preparing to transition to adult life? Is she a young child changing schools? Is it important to look at volunteer or employment opportunities? The answers to these types of questions will guide the focus of the meeting and types of maps needed.
  • Establishing a climate for creative participation by everyone in the group - This is partly done by simply encouraging comments/participation by everyone, acknowledging every response, and emphasizing that there are no right or wrong answers. In addition, a team leader needs to be comfortable with redirecting team members who may become negative or unproductive.
  • Keeping  the team on task by effectively managing time - For example, when a team gets “stuck” on a particular issue, acknowledge the situation (giving it value and importance), record it so that it won’t be forgotten, and then move the group on to the next topic. Many times, simply having a break from a particularly difficult item will allow the group to address it more productively at a later time.
  • Managing the PCP process - Part of managing the PCP process is choosing and working through various maps. Once the team’s desired outcome is understood, the leader/facilitator can help the team to choose which maps to complete. Each map has a particular purpose the next section describes key maps in greater detail.
  • Guiding the group process objectively - The team leader must understand that his or her role is to provide the structure that will keep the team moving forward in the person centered planning process. He or she must remain outside of the content of the person centered plan; his or her role is to engage the team in providing ideas and information that will eventually become a person centered plan for that individual.
  • Being certain that the process remains positive – In order to remain true to the philosophy behind person centered planning it is important to set a positive tone. When necessary, work to phrase or rephrase things in a positive way and maintain an inclusive environment.

Developing an Action Plan

Developing an action plan for working toward turning dreams into reality and overcoming fears

The “maps” created by the team provide information that can be used to determine what steps need to be taken in order to achieve goals, turns dreams into reality and overcome fears or barriers. Developing an action plan encourages teamwork and accountability, with each person clear about the role he or she will play on the team. No one person owns the plan, but everyone has ownership in it.

An Action Plan includes clear indications of the steps to be taken, who is responsible for each step and an approximate timeline. Here is an example of a PCP Action Plan:

An Action Plan includes clear indications of the steps to be taken, who is responsible for each step and an approximate timeline

Establishing a Team

Establishing a team of supportive individuals who commit to being involved in implementing the plan

The first PCP meeting should clearly define immediate next steps. Those steps should include scheduling another meeting and may include enlisting additional team members or identifying persons, agencies or programs that might provide needed information or assistance. There is a core group of team members from the initial meeting who monitor progress and coordinate action steps. As the process moves forward, the team may include new or fewer members, and continue to evolve over time.

The PCP and Action Plan(s) serve as guides. Discussion may be needed in order to prioritize needs or narrow broad goals into more manageable steps. Meetings can be held regularly or on an as-needed basis. The PCP can be updated or certain maps revised to reflect changes in interests or circumstances. Teams are also encouraged to review the plan at key transition points or following significant life events.


Understanding the Purpose and Creation of Different Person Centered Planning Maps

This section describes individual maps in more detail and provides information about their creation and use within the total PCP process. Many of these are basic maps from the Personal Futures Planning process of Dr. Beth Mount. Others are optional maps that focus on key information for learners with complex learning challenges, including deaf-blindness.


Go to Person Centered Planning Basic Map Descriptions

Go To Person Centered Planning Optional Map Descriptions



Putting it All Together

Individually, each map presents valuable information about a particular aspect of a learner. When taken together, the entire set of maps provides a picture of the learner that is much more personal and goes beyond the information given by typical reports or assessments. PCP participants almost always report that the process totally changes how they think and feel about a learner. Their understanding of and appreciation for the learner grows and they see him or her as more of an individual. By the same token, both families and school staff often become aware of student interests and capabilities previously unknown. In addition, hearing what a family has been through often changes how the family is viewed by school personnel. The overall experience puts people on the same page, creates new and exciting possibilities for the learner and opens the door to an enhanced quality of life.

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