Tuesday, February 23, 2010

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!