Frontline Initiative Person-Centered Practices

Person-centered description


Claire Benway is a Project Coordinator at the RTC on Community Living at the Institute on Community Integration

To learn more about Person-Centered Descriptions please visit the Learning community website. Learn more about the Research and Training Center on Community Living at the University of Minnesota.

Jake is a friend of mine who I have known for about 3 years. He is a friendly, fun, quick-with-a-laugh kind of guy who you can’t help but want to know. When I became a Person-Centered Thinking trainer, I needed a person who would help me practice my new skills. I needed to complete a Person-Centered Description. The first person that came to mind was Jake. He and I regularly visited at work, and we had been to a few work fundraising events together. I knew he had a new service coordinator who was willing to try new things. When I asked him, Jake quickly agreed.

We used the discovery process developed by the Learning Community for Person-Centered Practices. We completed the different parts of a Person-Centered Description, including what people Like and Admire, Good Day/Bad Day, and Things Needed to Support Me Best. It was a great learning process for both of us. I practiced my listening skills. Jake talked about what was a good life for him.

It has been almost two years since that time. Jake and I no longer work together. But we continue to meet every month or so for lunch. Recently we were chatting about work. He told me he is finally working at Culvers, a local restaurant, five days a week. I was so excited because this was one thing he talked about in his Person-Centered Description. Jake previously worked only two days a week. He spent the rest of his days attending a day program at a production job run by the organization. He was frustrated because many days he had no work. He said “I’m glad I’m not there now, I would just be sitting there.”

I asked Jake and his mother, Mary Ann if they would speak with me about how person-centered planning impacted them. I asked Jake and his mother to reflect on what they liked about this process. How had it impacted them in the last year? Jake was very clear. He really enjoyed the part of the process where we walked around the building where he worked and asked people what they liked or admired about him. Hearing the great things people said about him was exciting. Many people had great things to say! Jake’s mother Mary Ann described how this helped him gain confidence to tell people what he really wanted, and to express himself.

The learning that happened for Jake through this process was very helpful. It gave him confidence to express what he needs. An example of this was when he was asked to participate in a program where staff made up cards for him to express his needs or feelings. But Jake did not care to use the cards. Jake said, “I was given a card system to help me express my needs. . . My case managers suggested this and it did not work. So we don’t do it anymore. [The Person-Centered Description] gave me the confidence to speak up for myself.”

Jake talked about his worries for the future. He has done hard work to make a plan for his future. He worries that his case manager may not understand it. “He’s a great guy, and I’m counting on him. But it feels like I am leading him through the process.” Despite this Jake is eager and willing to continue the process.

Jake and I have plans to do another Person-Centered Description. I am also pleased to report that Jake is looking to move into his own apartment soon. He feels confident and looks forward to the new and exciting next step in his life.