Person-centered thinking and planning empowers individuals who need regular support, such as people with disabilities or those who are aging, to increase their own self-determination and independence. The Learning Community for Person-Centered Practices recently trained people who serve people with disabilities around new planning and services approaches. The new approaches engage people in defining their own needs and the services they desire. As a result, individuals live the lives they want while their health and safety needs are met. Services are changed, from a focus on what is important “for” the person (health and safety needs) to what is important “to” the person (personal preferences and choices).

Several creative exercises were suggested that would help the communication between staff and individuals to plan together. Some of the exercises include: 

Good day/bad day

  • An exercise that delves into what types of things make a good or bad day for the participant.
  • This could include which activities the participant likes or does not like and also could make the care planner aware of certain people in their family or social circle and daily interactions that they value.

4+1 tool

  • A tool that asks four different questions when dealing with participant issues: 1) What have you tried? 2) What have you learned?  3) What are you pleased about?  4) What are you concerned about?
  • After answering those questions, the final step in the process is to ask “Given what you’ve learned, what will you do next?”

Learning logs

  • A very helpful tool that is a “living document” where all family supports and service providers keep a log of things they experience with the participant on a day to day basis.
  • Helps everyone in the participant’s circle of support communicate with one another and prevents each of them having to learn things on their own which can lead to frustration from all parties.

"What is/is Not Working”

  • Similar to the 4+1 tool, this exercise helps facilitate discussion between the participant and the people who support them.
  • Takes issues and describes them from everyone’s point of view so they can identify the roots of problems and can try to find a solution that meets everyone’s needs and preferences.

All of these tools work together to encourage participants’ involvement in creating or making changes to their plans of care. Many of the Improve Group's culturally-responsive and person-focused evaluation approaches align with the person-centered practices for services. In fact, many of the systems we evaluate are working to transform their programs into a person- rather than a service-focused model. These programs have asked us to determine how much people are able to share what is important to them and make their own choices about goals and services.

In general, evaluators need to carefully consider the needs and preferences of the respondent. When planning an evaluation, we learn and use as much as we can about what is important to individuals, how they prefer to share information, and ensure their rights for privacy, confidentiality and choice to participate are respected (see our related article on cultural competency and another on creative ways to engage people in evaluation).

If you would like to learn more about this approach or find out about future trainings, please visit the link above. In addition, you may find other blogs related to person-centered practices here: