Person-Centered Planning in the Self-Determination Program

By Ability Central

21 September, 2022

graphic showing the title of the article: "Person-Centered Planning in the Self-Determination Program" on a green background

The Self-Determination Program (SDP) is an alternative option facilitated by the regional centers for people with disabilities to choose personalized support and care. Disabled individuals use their own voice, take back agency, and decide the direction of their life with support from a team. Being self-determined gives disabled people empowering choices that offer more joy in recreation, meets needs for personal safety, and adjusts accommodation on an individual basis.

SDP encourages individuals and families to tap into collective creativity and "think outside the box" on how the disabled person wants to lead their life. With the support of family, care teams, and guidance from an expert, individuals craft a personalized care plan together with their support team and family.

Tim Jin, a board member at Ability Central, said the program offered him freedom and agency. Though the process took him over 5 months to complete, he was undeterred from achieving his goal.

"I've always believed that I wanted to be in the program because the traditional system never worked for me at all," says Tim. "Throughout the process, I've learned that everyone has their own pace at trying to get into self-determination. I was discouraged at first by how long it was taking, but as all the pieces were coming together, I was more eager to go."

For Tim to complete the Self-Determination Program, he needed to coordinate Person-Centered Planning with his team.

What is Person-Centered Planning?

As part of the Self-Determination Program, Person-Centered Planning (PCP) is the process of organizing and choosing services that support an individual with disabilities. Most importantly, PCP focuses and directs the goals of the person receiving the support.

PCP helps disabled individuals construct and create a vision for their future. The program offers a lot of freedom to explore recreation, consider various paths to problem-solving, and wiggle room for adjusting problems quickly. Emergency planning is often a part of the planning process.

PCP highlights and explores an individual's strengths and goals—then dives into aspects of varying needs. These include aspects such as medical needs, home support, transportation, community-based services, therapies, treatments, and housing.

Individuals are also encouraged to express their preferences and desired outcomes. Because of the family and care team involvement, factors like culture and language are embraced and acknowledged. Ultimately, PCP aims to have individuals with disabilities truly understood.

For Tim Jin, having choices to hire who he needs brought a welcome degree of ordinariness to his home life.

"For the past 20 years, I needed to get permission from an agency for staff to take me to family gatherings, going to concerts, etc," says Tim. "Everything needed to be preplanned and approved due to overtime and the company's policy of who can drive me. Also, I got many random staff to help me throughout my day. It felt very institutionalized even in my own home.

"Now that I'm in Self Determination, I feel that my life is ordinary. For example, I can set up my own staffing schedule for staff and coordinate with them directly what I need to be done, instead of asking someone at an agency. Last night, I had tickets to go to a concert. I just needed to arrange it with my staff to take me and just budget in overtime for them. We had a great time at the show."

Person-Centered Planning may include a representative freely chosen by the person to help guide the meetings. Meetings are meant to be thorough—including family, friends, therapists, caregivers, social workers, or other people that the person wishes to include in the process. Each person's circle of support offers clarity and autonomy.

Praise for Person-Centered Planning

Matt and Shannon Cherry's family participated in California's pilot of the Self-Determination Program. Matt Cherry, director of philanthropy at Ability Central, expressed praise for Person-Centered Planning for his daughters.

"We wanted our daughters to have control and direction over their future," says Matt. "We met with an expert from the Boston area for each of our daughters' individualized care plans.

"All of us came together, and listened to each of our daughters' hopes and goals for the future. Everyone felt heard and learned a lot together. The meeting was very involved and thorough."

Shannon felt the most impressed by the program's PCP aspect for her family.

"What was exciting was the Person-Centered Planning," says Shannon. "It allowed us to find new opportunities and think outside the boundaries of the typical programs offered by the regional center. It truly is personalized for each of our daughters.

"Sophia loves entertaining and eating out. She now has plans (and the money for her plans) in place for starting those goals. Lyra, our other daughter, loves cooking and baking. She has hired a chef to teach her more."

Person-Centered Planning gives individuals with disabilities the authority needed to lead the life they want to live. Rather than putting a person into existing an program or service, the focus shifts the control back where it belongs, the person with a disability.

Learn more about self-determination by exploring our 4-part Self-Determination Series.

Education Quality Living
Disability Type:
Deaf Hearing Loss IDD Memory Mobility Vision