Plotting Your Course: A Guide to Using the MAPS Process

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Where to Begin With Person-Centered Planning: An Introduction

As families, schools, and other organizations have taken more steps to fully integrate individuals with disabilities into the community, families and educators have worked to find ways to streamline this process. Person centered planning is a strength-based technique that serves as a mechanism for securing the commitment of a collaborative team of individuals in supporting a focus person and his/her family through this process. In general, person centered planning uses graphic recordings (usually words, pictures, symbols on chart paper) and group facilitation techniques to guide the team. A facilitator is responsible for setting the agenda, assessing equal opportunities for all to participate, handling conflict when necessary, and maintaining the group’s focus.

Person centered planning was initially developed as a way of enabling people with disabilities to move out of segregated places (schools, hospitals, institutions) into neighborhood schools and their community. Part of the idea behind person centered planning was to move away from a “systems-centered” way of planning for the future (often based on stereotypes about persons with disabilities that may offer a limited number of segregated program options) in favor of a “person centered” approach that crafts an individualized plan emphasizing dreams and meaningful experiences.

Today the term “person centered planning” is used to refer to a number of different styles of planning that share fundamental values. Each person centered planning method/style has its own unique strategies for gathering information, but all share a set of common steps that include:

  1. Assembling a group of people,
  2. Developing a personal profile,
  3. Developing a vision for the future,
  4. Solving problems and creating an action plan, and
  5. Creating connections.

Some of the leaders in the development of person centered planning include Beth Mount, John O’Brien, and Connie O’Brien. Other leaders include Michael Smull and Susan Burke-Harrison, who developed a particular style of person centered planning called Essential Lifestyle Planning (ELP). ELP was initially designed for people with challenging behavior, but has been used in many applications. Marsha Forest and Jack Pearpoint were central in developing MAPS, which was initially used with planning for inclusion for students within a school setting. They have also developed a style of planning called Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope (PATH). A list and additional information about where to find these and other popular person centered planning tools can be found in the next section of this manual.