Take Control of Your Life
By Vanessa Blais
Imagine your future. What do you want it to look like? How do you plan to achieve a life that is important to you? Which of your strengths can help you achieve your goals? What will your obstacles be? Who do you know that can help you overcome those obstacles? Asking yourself these questions is the beginning of making a person-centered plan.
Person-centered planning is a process that helps people live out their hopes and dreams. It is centered around basic principles beginning with recognizing a person’s preferences and strengths—then acknowledging and understanding how those elements can help a person have control over their life path. Supports are then built around who an individual is, what is important to them, and by their cultural and social identities.
Person-centered planning can be introduced at a young age and should be a vital component of schooling for all students, staff, case managers, and even administrators. Students who attend their own Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings can help to create plans that give them control over the direction of their education and beyond. By the time they are adults, they can advocate for their own life plans because of the practice they’ve had developing and implementing their own IEPs and in identifying those who can support them in setting and accomplishing their goals.
Person-centered planning isn’t only for people with disabilities who receive services. Everyone can benefit from these tools, whether as an individual or part of a group. For example, the National Association of Councils with Developmental Disabilities (NACDD) uses person-centered planning to create a plan to achieve the goals of their policy committee.
Person-centered plans do not have to adhere to a strict set of rules. They can be creative and innovative. They can change over time to adapt to new preferences and to the many stages of life. Most importantly, person-centered plans are directed by the person benefitting from these tools, and the plan is then supported by people who have been chosen by that same person. Plans can also be implemented during aging and for end-of-life planning. This can help families understand what aging loved ones want at the end of their lives, especially when they have reached a point where they may no longer be able to express their wishes. It can give families confidence that they are continuing to give the supports their loved one requested.
There are many resources available on learning to build a person-centered plan for yourself and to assist other people in doing so. These resources include the Charting the LifeCourse Frameworks which teaches tools and strategies for creating effective person-centered plans. Advocates and disability-adjacent organizations in New Hampshire are working hard to educate people on how to build their own plans, and then training staff, volunteers, and families on how to support those plans.
Person-centered planning is a tangible way to take control from inflexible, medical-focused systems that are limited by funding and put it in the hands of the individual that these systems are meant to serve. Person-centered planning creates a human context for communities to build naturally inclusive and integrated environments and to enhance the lives of everyone who lives, works,
and plays there.
Everyone has a right to pursue a full life in their community. No one achieves that life without natural and systemic supports from those around them. Humans are interdependent by nature. Leaving the institutionalized society behind, we look to build more inclusive support systems that are determined by the individual who may need more supports than others to achieve their life goals.
Vanessa Blais serves as the Director of Policy and Planning for the NH Council on Developmental Disabilities. She is a certified Charting the LifeCourse Ambassador and a member of the LifeCourse Nexus.
DRC-NH, in collaboration with the UNH Institute on Disability and the New Hampshire Council on Developmental Disabilities, distribute a quarterly RAP sheet to educate community members and policy makers about the latest research, policy, practice, and advocacy issues affecting individuals with disabilities and their families.