My IDEA: Inspiring Discovery to Empower Action
My IDEA: Inspiring Discovery to Empower Action:
Person-Centered Planning at P.G. Chambers School
By Jessica Simao, MOTR, ATP, Person-Centered Planning Coordinator
“Nothing happens unless first a dream” – Carl Sandburg
Times of transition are often filled with anxiety for both our students and their families as they prepare to move into the next stage in their lives. Whether it be a move from early intervention to preschool, from middle school to high school, or anywhere in between, transitions can be a stressful time for all involved. Thus, supporting transitions for our students and their families is a priority at P.G. Chambers School.
Person-Centered Planning is a transition tool used to empower our students and families by increasing their involvement and control in planning for the the future. It guides participants in identifying students’ strengths, building community connections, and discovering opportunities to move towards a positive future.
P.G. Chambers School offers Person-Centered Planning to our middle school students and their families as they prepare for their transition to high school. Our process begins with the student identifying whom they would like to participate in their planning process. This may include family, friends, teachers, related service providers, school district personnel, and even neighbors. A team of facilitators then plans and schedules a time for the meeting, guides discussions, and records the plan using images and words.
Over the course of these discussions, a positive and possible vision for the future emerges based on the student’s interests and strengths. This vision becomes a guide to develop goals and break them down into manageable steps. The group identifies potential barriers and supports available to help the student achieve her goals. It also invites group members to “enroll” in becoming an active participant and committing to the student’s journey.
Since beginning this project, twelve students and their families have participated. Through the support of their teachers and therapists, many of our students found their “voices” and are able to communicate their hopes, dreams, and needs so they can be active participants in the process. After completing the process, students gave insight into what they learned:
“That I am strong!” – Katie
“I learned that many people are able to help me and and my family is supportive and helpful.” – Brent
“I learned about confidence in myself and being able to speak in front of others. I want to encourage other students to be confident in what they are saying.” – Tomas
The skill of self-advocacy is identified as an area to develop in our younger students so that they can participate in the Person-Centered Planning process once they reach their middle school years.
So what is self-advocacy and why is it important? Self-advocacy is being able to communicate one’s wants and needs effectively in order to get those needs met. It requires a student to be self-aware of his or her interests, strengths, limitations and support needs. Various activities, such as completing an “All About Me” book, or describing characters in a favorite book may help to enhance self-awareness. By helping our students increase their self-awareness, they can give voice to their dreams and be active participants in planning for their bright futures!
What a wonderful idea – it’s bound to make the student more at ease in the transition! There are times in my life when this type of thing would have been helpful even to me. (I think it’s also important that the student be able to voice any concerns she may have.)