As insights evolve regarding the needs of and solutions for those living with disabilities, so do concepts and the practices of those who provide services to them. Person-Centered Thinking (PCT) is one such concept. It is practiced by Evergreen Service Providers and is being integrated into Community Centered Boards and agencies that coordinate and monitor services to Individuals with disabilities, including Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD).
Person-Centered Planning is a common element of service provision to disabled Individuals, but its focus is primarily on activities, programs and events. Person-Centered Thinking is a more holistic approach to meeting the needs of Individuals with disabilities. It considers not only what is important for an Individual, but what is important to them.
It incorporates the “See Me For Me” attitude, which the public is encouraged to adopt towards Individuals with IDD, into the culture of service provision. It recognizes that ALL people have strengths, gifts and abilities – not just needs – and that greater meaning is found in life for Individuals when they can feel that they are a part of and are making a contribution to their community. Input from the Individual, not just about them, is an important ingredient in the process.
This concept of Person-Centered Thinking and its framework for implementation were developed by John and Connie O’Brien in 1989. At the foundation of their work are five experiences they identified as valued by Individuals:
- Personal relationships
- Sharing places and activities
- Making choices
- Being treated with respect and having a valued social role
In light of these valued experiences, they define the purpose of human services as follows:
- To help people discover and move toward a desirable personal future
- To offer help in ways that keep or give valued experiences now
- To strengthen community competence
5 Foundational Beliefs of Person-Centered Approaches
According to Anne Roehl of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Community Integration, there are several methods for positioning Person-Centered Thinking at the core of the systems that serve disabled individuals. But there are five foundational beliefs common to all Person-Centered approaches:
- Ask the essential questions: Who is this person? What is important to him/her?
- Change community patterns to stimulate hospitality and enlist community members in helping persons to define and work toward a desirable future.
- Challenge practices that separate people and/or that perpetuate controlling relationships.
- Respect the dignity and completeness of the person.
- Assist individuals to define and pursue a desirable future.
The system that provides services to Individuals living with disabilities includes government agencies, Community Centered Boards, agencies such as Evergreen Service Providers, and our invaluable Host Home Providers. This system is evolving so that the Individuals who we support have input into how the system can truly know and implement their choices about how they want to live. To do this, those who provide services must be empowered to make changes to the public resources necessary to meet these needs.
How Evergreen Service Providers is Working to Become a Leader in Person-Centered Services
Evergreen Service Providers wants to be a part of this broader system change and a leader in providing person-centered services to Individuals. Our goal is to work closely with our Host Home Providers to ensure Person-Centered Thinking is not simply a concept but a set of principles and practices that can be implemented on a daily basis. Through frequent communication, training opportunities and home monitoring visits, we are initiating plans to work with our Host Home Providers to further develop their person-centered knowledge, skills, and abilities so that they can best support Individuals to live a self-directed and meaningful life.
A Person-Centered approach ensures that everyone has a voice in guiding community change and means that change is possible for both Individuals that are served and the systems that serve them. The result will be, as expressed by Anne Roehl, “…helping people get better lives, not just better plans…”
Contact us to learn more about how Evergreen Service Providers implements Person-Centered Thinking into our care of Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.