Map Your Future with Person-Centered Planning

A Brief Overview  

  • Person-Centered Planning (PCP) is a method for helping a person map out a future with intention and support.
  • PAVE staff member Michele Lehosky, PCP facilitator, provided a training at PAVE’s Tools 4 Success conference in March 2020. Here’s a YouTube video from that virtual conference: Build Your Dream Map.
  • Read on for more information about what Person-Centered Planning is like.

Full Article  

Everyone dreams about what they might do or become. Individuals with disabilities might need additional support to design the plans, set the goals and recruit help. The Person-Centered Planning (PCP) process is a tool that works like a Global Positioning System (GPS) to help a person figure out where they are starting and how to navigate to a planned destination.   

A PCP session is a gathering that can happen in a specific physical location, such as a school or a community center, or in a virtual space online. The people who get together might include family members, friends, teachers, vocational specialists, coaches—anyone who might help brainstorm ways to plan an enriched, full life for a person of honor.

The first step is to celebrate the gifts, talents, and dreams of the person. Then the group develops action steps to help that person move closer to their dreams and goals.  

Throughout the gathering, the attendees listen, ask questions, and draw pictures or write down words that contribute to the process. Respect for the person’s goals and wishes is a priority, and participants withhold judgment to honor the individual completely.  

Person-Centered Planning explores all areas of a person’s life. All people experience various times in their lives that are transitions. High-school graduation is a major example. Job changes, moving to a new home, entering or leaving a relationship: Those transitions happen for individuals with and without disabilities.

Individuals with disabilities have some additional transitions. For example, when a person leaves the special education system of public education at graduation or after age 21, there is a change in disability protections. A student receiving special education is protected by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In adult life, the right to accommodations and non-discrimination is protected solely by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

There are specific transitions that occur for individuals who qualify for support from the Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA), which in Washington is part of the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). Employment and workforce training programs often are part of the transition from high school into what happens next.

During major life transitions, many service agencies focus on a person’s inabilities or deficits.  Person-Centered Planning, on the other hand, focuses on what’s positive and possible, based on the dreams and goals of the individual.

A PCP session includes a set of maps where information is collected in words and pictures. Here are some examples:

People in my Life     

This map names important people and their roles in concentric circles. These are people that the individual trusts for help and support and may include paid and unpaid supporters. Those who are closest to the person are in the circles closest to the center of the map.

Who am I?  My Story, My History    

This map is built during the session to describe the person’s story from birth up until the gathering. This map reflects what is most important to the individual. The facilitator might ask:

  • What parts of your life are important for people to know?   
  • What are some stories of your life that would be helpful for a coworker or a friend to know? 
  • Are you a sibling? A spouse? A parent?
  • How old are you? 
  • What activities do you participate in? 
  • Have you had any jobs?
  • Where do you live? Go to school?  
  • Do you have a medical concern that someone spending time with you might need to know about? 

 Likes and Dislikes  

The “Likes” list includes favorites, things that make the person happy. Favorite colors, foods, activities, places, people are listed. 

The “Dislikes” list includes the opposite of all those things and might also list triggers (bright lights, loud noises, angry voices, bullies) or other sensitivities.

What Works/ Doesn’t work 

The first part of this map asks: When learning a new activity or skill, what are steps and learning tools or activities that work for you? Answers might look like these examples: frequent breaks, accommodations, a written schedule, a list of duties, instructions in larger print, a preferred time of day to start something…. 

The second part asks: When learning a new activity or skill what activities do not work for you? Answers might resemble these examples:  waiting in line, too many instructions, too many people barking out orders, standing or sitting for too long, verbal instructions, unclear expectations….  

Gifts, Talents and Strengths  

This map asks several questions: 

  • What are you good at?
  • What can you do that is easy for you? 
  • What are your best qualities? 
  • What do people like about you?   

Examples for answers:  best smile, cleaning, giving, caring, natural dancer, very social, great with computers, good with numbers, great at sports, good listener, good with animals, etc.   

Dreams /Nightmares 

The My Dreams map asks: Where you would like to see yourself in a few years?  Follow-up questions:

  • What will you be doing?
  • What would your dream job be?  
  • Where are you living? 
  • Do you live on your own or with family or a roommate?  
  • How are you keeping in touch with your friends?   
  • What is an action you can take to move toward your dream or goals?    

The Nightmare Map asks:  What do you want to avoid?  Follow-up questions might include this one: Where do you not want to be in a few years? This is not to make the person feel bad but to make an out-loud statement about what the person doesn’t want to happen. This can include actions or thoughts that someone wants to avoid.  


The Needs map asks:  What do you need help with to avoid the nightmare?  A follow up question might include: What areas do you need support with? Answers might look like these examples: budgeting money, learning to drive, training to ride the bus, cooking lessons, looking for a job. The goal is to recruit support to help the person stay away from the nightmare and work toward the dream.   

Action Steps  

A map that show Action Steps includes the specific help that will assist the individual in moving toward the dream. This chart typically details what needs to be done, who will do it, and by when. 


Goal: To Write a Resume     
Who: Michele 
What: Call Mark to ask for help.  
By When: Next Monday, April 6, 2020 

This process involves many support people in the person’s life and identifies, in a self-directed way, areas where help is needed to meet personal goals. The gathering involves the important people in someone’s life because they can help through the process and step up to offer support for the action steps. 

How to get a Person-Centered Plan  

Here are places that might help you find a PCP facilitator in your area:  

  • Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) 
  • Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR)
  • School District 

If you live in Pierce County, Wash., PAVE offers PCP facilitation. Please fill out a Helpline Request Form at and ask for PCP support. One of our coordinators will contact you.  

Here are a few additional places to seek information about Person-Centered Planning: All My Life’s a Circle The Path Method 

Video from PAVE, Tools 4 Success  


How to Prepare for a DDA Assessment

Here are tips for getting ready for an assessment with the Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA), which is managed by the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). Be sure to send information to the DDA case manager ahead of time and keep a copy. If you save the assessment electronically in Word/Google Documents, it can be easily reviewed and updated any time.


  • Take notes on last year’s assessment and email a list of your concerns to the DDA case manager. This provides the case manager time to prepare answers and check with a supervisor or central office staff if further information is needed to answer questions.


  • If the individual receiving DDA support is working or is looking for work, invite a job coach to the meeting. Provide details about the meeting day, time and location, with plenty of time for planning.
  • Notify personal care providers about the meeting so they can share information with the case manager about supports being provided.


  • Include full name, address and phone number for the individual with a disability
  • Other Contacts: name, phone, address, and email
    • Close family members, friends, siblings, grandparents.
    • Medicaid Personal Care provider.
    • Employment Vendor
    • Medical doctors and specialists
    • Dentist
  • List of all medications
    • Name, dose, reason: include vitamins and over-the-counter medicines
    • For prescriptions, include the name of the doctor or other prescriber
  • List all diagnoses
    • For example: autism, cerebral palsy, paraplegia, specific cardiac problems, hydrocephalus, Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), depression, seizure disorder
    • A primary doctor at the annual checkup can describe diagnoses in a clinic note, required by some DDA case managers
  • Record the dates of the most recent doctor and dentist appointments
    • Include emergency room and hospital visits with or without an overnight
  • Therapies
    • Describe the kind of therapy, frequency of sessions and full contact information for each therapist.
  • The assessment will review what happened over the past seven days, so a journal, whiteboard or note file on a phone can help track events for the week prior to the assessment. The case manager will want to know everything caregivers do for or with the individual with the disability.
    • Note with detail each time you provide verbal prompting, physical guidance, weight-bearing assistance, monitoring for safety, etc. Include things like tying shoes and zipping jackets or advising about the weather and what to wear.
    • Think of everything for an accurate CARE Assessment that details what care was provided to the individual throughout the time period being reviewed,

This information can be printed in PDF form – How To Prepare for a DDA Assessment
Having trouble seeing this document? Please email us at for us to email you a different version.

We explain this document in Video form! Training Overview of DDA Assessments

Developmental Disabilities Ombuds

By Tim McCue
Self Advocacy Educator
Pronouns: he/him/his
Office of Developmental Disabilities Ombuds

The Developmental Disabilities Ombuds; what are they all about?

Are you frustrated with your DD services? We are here to help! An ombuds is a person who makes sure that people who are getting a certain type of service have protection and get treated the way that they deserve to be treated. There are ombuds for people who are elderly and live in nursing homes, and ombuds for kids who need some help at school. The Developmental Disabilities Ombuds, or DD Ombuds, help improve the lives of people who have intellectual or developmental disabilities that are getting services from the government.

We take complaints from individuals with disabilities, their friends, family, guardians and even staff. When you call us, we have to keep what you told us private unless you give us permission to tell other people. Even if you do not get any services but you have a developmental disability, we can offer you information to help you find the help you need. We call this “information and referral”. What are some reasons you might want to make a complaint? Well, maybe you do not like the way you were treated, or maybe you do not feel safe? Another reason could be that you do not get to have the privacy or get to make the decisions you want.

Our biggest goal is to stop abuse and neglect from happening. That is why we regularly visit, or monitor, the places where people with developmental disabilities live across Washington State. These places can be supported living, adult family homes, private residences, or state institutions. As we are monitoring, we collect information so that we can write reports to give to service providers and the Washington state legislature about how well the service system is working. These reports include recommendations for how to improve the services that people are getting.

The Office of the Developmental Disabilities Ombuds also believes that self-advocacy is important. Why? Self-advocacy is all about giving people with disabilities the tools they need let others what they want, including safety, privacy, choice, dignity and respect. We have a self-advocacy educator who works full time to develop advocacy materials and teach self-advocacy skills. At our advocacy trainings, we give presentations and lead activities on topics like problem solving, speaking up, and disability rights.

The DD Ombuds are looking for new places to give advocacy trainings, so if you would like us to come to your meeting or event, send us a message at If you would like to make a complaint about your developmental disability services, give us a call at 833-727-8900, or fill out a complaint form on our website. Remember, the Office of Developmental Disabilities Ombuds is your office!

About the author:
Tim McCue has lived his entire life in the cool, crisp climate of Washington State. In 2012, Tim graduated from Lincoln High School and entered the Tacoma Transition Program, where he worked at the Metro Parks’ Greenhouse near Point Defiance. During his time there, he met Mike Raymond and the team at Self Advocates of Washington (SAW), who inspired his interest in advocacy. As a result, he was hired on as an intern to teach students about a variety of topics relating to disability empowerment, later becoming SAW’s Project Manager/Executive Director. He has also spent a considerable amount of time volunteering at various Self Advocacy groups such as Self Advocates in Leadership (SAIL) and Allies in Advocacy, most notably supporting and learning from the Person Centered Planning movement. In 2017, Tim was hired as the Self-Advocacy Educator for the Office of Developmental Disabilities Ombuds at Disability Rights Washington, where he works to provide disabled individuals with the most powerful tool of all; knowledge.