Tools for Planning

What are the steps in the planning process?

There are many different types of tools that can be used for planning at different stages of a child’s life. Some are more formal and can be helpful for record-keeping and documentation. Others are informal and are more geared towards families and the student.

Beginning the Planning Process

What are the steps in the planning process?

The family and other members of the educational team should work closely together at all stages of the process. It is important that the school be clear about the family’s priorities and goals, and the family should also be aware of how these goals are being addressed in the school environment.

The student should have a voice in the process as early as possible. While not all students will be able to articulate their goals and aspirations, they should participate in the planning process throughout their educational careers.

When the student reaches the age of 14, formal transition planning should begin. See the Transition Timeline for specific steps to take at each phase.

Who should be involved in planning process?

The student and family should be at the center of the process, with other members of the educational team supporting them. There are often representatives from adult services agencies, and if the individual is blind or visually impaired, deafblind or has significant cognitive disabilities, the appropriate agency will also be involved. Beyond that the specific people who are involved will depend on the individual situation, but should be people who have a strong interest in the youth’s future. This may be a neighbor who will have a voice in the youth’s housing choices, or the owner of a restaurant who would like to employ the youth. It may be a member of a religious community or other community organization, if this is an important part of the youth’s life. See Student-Driven Transition Planning for examples of the transition process.

An Introduction to Personal Futures Planning

Also known as Person-Centered Planning, Personal Futures Planning is a process focusing on the individual to assist teams to develop a vision of the future and specific steps that can be taken to achieve that vision. Typically the team includes a person’s family and teacher, and related service providers, as well as friends, neighbors, and people of significance in the individual’s life. They gather together with the target-person to focus on the future, with an emphasis on what an individual’s preferences interests, and abilities, rather than on a pre-defined outcome. This process often works best when there is a facilitator, as this ensures equal participation from all participants.

Basic Components

There are different ways to organize the process, but in general it addresses the following questions:

How is Personal Futures Planning different from traditional planning?Traditional planning versus person-centered planning

A balance must be struck between traditional planning and PFP, as sometimes adult service agencies or school systems do not have the flexibility to deviate from a set model.

How the Process Works

There is no special equipment needed and the only thing that is required is a willingness to look at positive possibilities for the future. The people in the planning team need to make a commitment to meet on a regular basis for an extended period of time, as this process takes some time.

Getting started with Transition Planning:

Transition Timeline: Where to Start

Student-Driven Transition Planning

Preparing for Transition Using an Activity-Based Self-Determination Curriculum

Preparing for College


Tools for Planning

Sample Forms and Assessment Tools

By Charlotte Cushman


Measuring Tools: Using Traditional and Digital Tools & Activities

Photo of smiling Kaleigh with short dark curly hair in Zoom interview and text

Kaleigh’s Tools to Access Education in College Interview


Battle of the Tools!