Friday, December 28, 2007

Looking to the Future

I participated in a person-centered planning session yesterday with my 17 year old daughter, Jessica and several other people who are interested in Jessica’s future. Although I had read and heard about the person centered approach for many years, I had never participated in the development of a plan for anyone. I really enjoyed our session yesterday, and I feel much, much better about Jessica’s future.

“The person-centered approach relies much less on the service system by organizing truly individualized, natural, and creative supports to achieve meaningful goals based on the individual's strengths and preferences. No longer is planning based on "the services available at the present time" which has been the age-old excuse that has restricted our thinking, planning, and actions. The person-centered approach creates a team of people who know and care about the individual with a disability, who come together to develop and share a dream for the person's future, and who work together to organize and provide the supports necessary to make that dream a reality.” (Garner and Dietz, Virginia Commonwealth University, Severe Disabilities Technical Assistance Center).

We began our meeting yesterday by asking Jessica what her dreams for her future were. She did an excellent job of expressing herself, and shared with us that she wants to live in an apartment with one or two other people, and she wants to be a nurse or nurse’s aide. She shared that she would like to go on vacation to Florida, and that she would really like to have a boyfriend. Sprinkled throughout her discussion was a common theme – she wants to help people.

After Jessica shared her dreams with us, we all stepped through what would have to be accomplished for her to achieve those dreams. With Jessica’s input, we developed goals for her. She knows that she must do well in school to be able to be a nurse’s aide. She said she needs to be able to read and write well and to use a computer. She acknowledged that she has to be able to get along with people, and if she gets angry, she said she needs to “learn to use her words and not her hands” to deal with that anger. She said she needs to learn how to cook and clean and do her laundry because “Mom’s not going to come to my apartment and do it for me.” Smart girl!

The next step had Jessica listing what her positive attributes were and what her not-so positive attributes were. She feels she is smart, pretty, very sociable, well mannered, and a good eater. She knows she needs to work on dealing with difficult situations and keeping herself safe and healthy. She had some very insightful comments concerning her health given that we are smack dab in the season of overeating and other excesses. She knows she needs to learn how to handle money, and how to travel to and from her job. In short, she has a very realistic and positive view of her future, and her support team and I are poised to support her in getting there.

Our next step is to find a doctor’s office, perhaps a pediatrician’s office, that will allow Jessica to do volunteer work several afternoons each week. Jessica wants to walk with the nurses to bring people to exam rooms, help record their height and weight, and help the children not be so scared. Her charming personality will really be an asset there!

I believe person centered planning is really going to make a difference to Jessica and her future happiness. Although the process is normally targeted to people with significant disabilities, I would like to go through the same process with my two sons. In my opinion, we could all benefit from sharing our dreams and goals, and identifying support systems to help us realize those dreams.

I’m very proud of you, Jessica!


Casdok said...

Well done Jessica!!
The concept is excellent, however over here it just seems more lip service.
Or maybe progress is just slow?!

Ashley's Mom said...

I agree, and that lip service is probably why I haven't participated in such a process before now. I think, and hope, the difference now is that Jessica has a team of people who really seem to care about her future. They seem committed to making things happen. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Ashley's Mom said...

I agree, and that lip service is probably why I haven't participated in such a process before now. I think, and hope, the difference now is that Jessica has a team of people who really seem to care about her future. They seem committed to making things happen. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

MMC said...

Just wanted to say hi and "nice blog". I had to dig around a bit to try and find the stories on each of your children. You do have your hands (and heart) full, don't you?

I have a 14 year old with a few different issues (including epilepsy) and an 11 year old with a learning disability. Funny, I've never come across any blogs written by parents of kids with special needs before. Glad I found yours!

Robert Weetman said...

The lip-service problem is something I'm really interested in. Sometimes what it boils down to is whether the process is viewed as about people, or about 'writing a plan'. I provide training to new facilitators and I like to ask them to talk about 'person-centred planning' rather than 'person-centred plans' or (worse) PCP. I know that this can seem like a pointless game with words, but I think it helps to remind people that in the best planning sessions what is important is stuck in people's heads at the end of the process - or simply that people have had to listen, or have come on board. It's quite possible for there to be no written 'plan'. Of course support organisations need to write stuff down - but I'd talk about what they create as being a service plan (a good one very much responding to the person-centred planning).

Sorry, that's all a bit squashed together to make it a quick comment. I can point you at a longer article about this if you are interested.

Thanks for the excellent blog by the way. Just one question - How am I going to find the time to read all of it?

Ashley's Mom said...

Thanks for the comments Robert. I really hope this time this exercise will make a difference. Through the years I have been involved in so many different 'approaches' for my two girls with significant disabilities, and more often than not, I end up disappointed and they end up with no positive changes in their lives.

But, being an optimist, I *hope* this time is different.

I would be interested in the longer article you referenced.

And, as for getting through the blog - call in sick to work one day and just read, read, read :)


Robert Weetman said...

About phoning in sick so I can spend all day reading the internet... I work for myself! The problem is I'm all too easy to convince... :-)

The article is here:
It's just short, but seems to have hit home for some people.

There's more about person-centred planning (and not just written by me) if you follow the links on that page.

Ashley's Mom said...

Thanks Robert, I will check it out! With all the battles I have between school and insurance and day support programs (or the lack thereof), I need all the help I can get!