Impact Feature Issue on Aging and People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

“The Future is Now”:
Training Individuals with Disabilities and Families in Future Planning


Alan Factor Associate Director for Training and Dissemination of the RRTC on Aging with Developmental Disabilities, University of Illinois at Chicago

The Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Aging with Developmental Disabilities (RRTCADD) at the University of Illinois at Chicago has developed an innovative planning resource: The Future is Now: A Future Planning Training Curriculum for Families and Their Adult Relatives with Developmental Disabilities (DeBrine, Caldwell, Factor, Heller, Keiling & Kramer, 2009). This curriculum equips individuals with developmental disabilities and their families with the communication skills and information needed to jointly plan for the future. The goal of the training -- which is designed to be delivered by disability and aging organizations -- is to have families prepare a letter of intent that describes their relative's desired future living arrangement, community role, and lifestyle preferences, and specifies the available resources, needed supports, and action steps to achieve these outcomes.

The Future is Now is unique because it was the first such curriculum to include people with disabilities in the planning process, and to empirically test its outcomes. It received the National Alliance for Caregiving 2008 innovative program award. Research revealed that, when compared to non-participating families, families who participated in the training were more involved in future planning activities and were more likely to prepare a special needs trust and to initiate planning for future living arrangements. The training also significantly reduced caregivers' feelings of burden and increased the daily choice-making of individuals with disabilities (Heller & Caldwell, 2006).

The curriculum consists of five 2.5-hour sessions that incorporate breakout training segments for families and individuals with developmental disabilities. Each group is co-facilitated by a professional and a peer mentor. Content addresses the family's and individual's dreams for the future; expanding support networks; future living arrangements; work, education, and retirement; and safeguards to ensure their future plan will be implemented.

The Future is Now training manual, updated in 2009, contains instructions for planning the training, facilitator's guides, workbooks for families and people with disabilities, and assessment tools along with a CD-ROM.

  • DeBrine, E., Caldwell, J., Factor, A., Heller, T., Keiling, K., & Kramer, J. (2009). The future is now: A future planning training curriculum for families and their adult relatives with developmental disabilities (Rev. 2nd Ed.). Chicago: Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Aging with Developmental Disabilities, University of Illinois at Chicago.

  • Heller, T., & Caldwell, J. (2006). Supporting aging caregivers and adults with developmental disabilities in future planning. Mental Retardation, 44(3), 189–202.