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The Power of Person-Centered Planning

Person-centered planning is an exciting approach for building shared vision and strong foundation for a student's post-secondary transition.

Person-centered planning (PCP) is a unique, interactive transition assessment that brings together a student’s full team – including immediate and extended family, neighbors and other important community connections – along with the school team to identify a student’s strengths, needs, interests and preferences.  It is a facilitated process used to assist individual students and their families with:

Person-centered planning can be requested by the student, family, outside provider or school team.
It is conducted using MAPS (Making Action Plans System), and is intended to create a profile of the student with focus on the development of a strong action plan for post-secondary transition. MAPS may include a focused discussion on areas such as: 

How does a PCP differ from an IEP meeting?

Although there is a formal aspect to PCP meetings, it is a voluntary process, which makes the atmosphere more casual than that in a meeting where an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is being discussed. 

A PCP meeting is a fun and celebratory activity, led by the student, with support from a trained facilitator. The meeting may include the student’s choice of music, environment and even food. Attendees are chosen by the student and their family, and often include close family members, friends, neighbors, educational staff, transition staff, and state agency staff.

Like the IEP, however, it is an outcome driven process and acts as a stepping stone to transition planning and IEP development.  

When and where does person-centered planning happen?

There are important transition considerations at ages 14, 17 and 20 which a PCP may help to emphasize and define within an action plan. Keep in mind, however, that transition assessments are based on need and interest and can be requested at any time. 

The process and sessions are designed to fully engage the student and family to address the current, short-term and long-term priorities.  A PCP may take place in a variety of settings.  A facilitator is assigned to help the student and family decide where and when the meeting will be held and the desired goals.

How long are PCP meetings?

PCP meetings can range in time, but often span 90 minutes to two hours.  The facilitator works with families to best meet the needs of the student and family. 

Who runs a PCP meeting?

The student, of course!, and a trained facilitator. In addition, each PCP has an assigned scribe. 

Who is invited to a PCP meeting?

The student and family choose who they would like to attend and may include close family, friends and neighbors, educational staff, transition staff and state agency staff. 

What happens after the PCP?

The results serve as a guide or roadmap for the family, school, community and help to improve the student’s current and future opportunities and outcomes.

What is MAPS?

It is a collaborative way to develop a plan of action towards a student’s dream for the future. It provides:

How does MAPS work?

These are the general steps for MAPS, but they are loosely structured and can be tailored to meet student and parent preference:

  1. Identify who the MAP is for and invite participants in the room to introduce themselves and describe their relationship to the student.
  2. Explore and develop the student’s circles of support.  This facilitated discussion is important as the person experiences different schools, programs, jobs, etc.  Consider this the networking step.
  3. The student tells their story and why they are here.  All others can support the student (with descriptions, photos, etc.) in response to guided questions by the facilitator such as, “My favorite things are…”  and “A perfect day for me would be…”
  4. The group supports the student by identifying and listing their gifts, strengths and talents. “Who am I…?”  “A worker, singer, student, helper….”
  5. Develop “the dream” through short- and long-term goals. The dream is an opportunity for the student to say what they want to include in their life and express what their aspirations, hopes and dreams are.
  6. Solidify an action plan.  This final step is an important one in the process. The group develops an action plan, listing who will do what, where and when to support the goals. 

Sample person-centered planning meeting agenda

Every PCP meeting will be tailored to the needs of the individual student, but this is a general overview of what you might expect:

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