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Person-Centered Planning

Understanding person-centered planning

Person-centered planning helps individuals with disabilities direct their own lives — with options to plan housing, work, finances and more. Learn about person-centered planning, how it can help and how you might fit into the process.

Benefits of person-centered planning

Person-centered planning focuses on the individual not the planner, and their strengths rather than their deficits. It helps alleviate isolation, stigmatizing labels, loss of opportunity and loss of hope. Person-centered planning:

  • Brings the person with a disability together with a team of family, friends, neighbors, employers, community members and healthcare professionals to find out what is important to the person with the disability, now and in the future.
  • Matches the wants and needs of the individual to existing services, adapts existing services to better suit the person or creates new services if required.
  • Gives the individual more control over services and the direction of their lives.
  • Helps the individual accomplish their goals and fit in and contribute to society in a personalized way, rather than passively accepting services based solely on their diagnosis and condition.
  • Finds ways for the individual to develop the skills and abilities needed to work toward achieving his or her goals and having more control in his or her life
EFMP & Me Online Tool

Young adult or parent with special needs in your family? Explore the range of services and supports using this personalized tool as your guide, online, 24/7.


Basic planning objectives

Person-centered planning aims to help the person with disabilities do the following:

  • Live in the community
  • Choose his or her own services and housing
  • Develop his or her own skills and interests
  • Be treated with respect
  • Find a valued social role
  • Find meaningful independent relationships

Planning team members

It’s important to form a team to support your family member with special needs and help build their plan. A strong team is comprised of the following members:

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An unbiased facilitator

Facilitators encourage brainstorming during the meeting and help identify friends, family or professionals who can help keep the plan on track. This benefits all involved by making sure the needed information is gathered and the process is managed in a timely, efficient manner.

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Disability service advocates

Disability service advocates can help find resources, discuss options, help with evaluating plans and services, and help the individual become a self-advocate. In some cases, this may be a person with knowledge of disability law. Having knowledgeable resources can make planning easier and help to ensure all goals are covered.

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Family members and friends

Immediate and extended family members and close friends can weigh options and help with informed decision making. They have existing relationships with the individual and can use their personal knowledge to ask questions and they support the process.

Resources to build your planning team

Use the following sources to find potential members to help build your person-centered planning team.

  • Exceptional Family Member Program: Your installation Exceptional Family Member Program Family Support provider and Military OneSource can assist with finding person-centered planning facilitators and resources. Although facilitators and related resources will most likely come with a fee, a consultation with your installation EFMP Family Support provider or Military OneSource is free. Find your local EFMP Family Support provider or call 800-342-9647 to speak with a Military OneSource special needs consultant and be connected to experts on a wide range of topics relevant to families with special needs, including education, independent living and more.
  • State-provided resources: State-provided adult services specialists may be available in some states. You can search for programs and organizations providing advocacy at Office of Disability Employment Policy by entering “advocate” and your state.
  • University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities: A Center for Excellence is another great resource for finding person-centered planning facilitators. To locate a center in your state, visit the Administration for Community Living website.

Frequently asked questions

The more you know about how you fit into the planning process, the more you can help meet the goals of the individual. To assist with planning, it’s useful to get answers to the following questions.

Use the EFMP & Me tool to create a customized checklist for your family. Review the Transitioning to Adulthood section for tips and resources on person-centered planning.

Build Your Knowledge with free e-learning courses such as “Adults with Special Needs,” “Government Assistance Programs,” advocacy videos and more on MilLife Learning.

Get information about rights under the law of people with disabilities as you learn more about person-centered planning.

Visit the Office of Disability Employment Policy to find out what Social Security benefits, medical services, employment, housing, transportation, respite care and other forms of assistance are available at the federal level. The site also has links to state benefits.

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