How Do We Renew the Promise
of Person-Centered Planning?

There’s an App for That!

On a sunny Friday in March of 2020, we had a quiet but exciting meeting at our High Tide Press offices. It was one of those meetings where the collaboration was easy and the ideas flowing. We left for the weekend inspired by the possibility of a new way to infuse person-centered planning with the science of positive psychology—the well-researched elements of well-being.

On Sunday, our governor announced that our state was, essentially, closing down.

Just as for so many, shocked disappointment marked the beginning of the Covid-19 shutdown for us. We had just published the book that was to launch our campaign to revolutionize person-centered planning: A New Plan: Using Positive Psychology to Renew the Promise of Person-Centered Planning by Art Dykstra and Thane Dykstra, Ph.D. Unfortunately, we quickly realized that our marketing messages would fall on deaf ears. While we heard of people stranded at home watching endless Netflix series, DD Providers had their hands way more than full.

Back to that Friday meeting in March…

Shortly after A New Plan was released, Thane Dykstra gave a copy to Steve Sutter, president of CreateAbility Inc. Steve’s company develops technology solutions specifically for people who have disabilities. We met with Steve that fateful Friday. CreateAbility has a unique view into the ways people with disabilities interact with technologies. He saw a way to bring the philosophy and the methods of A New Plan directly to the person it matters to the most. The person at the center of the person-centered plan, the person whose life will flourish…or flounder…based on the quality and the implementation of that plan.

Steve thought he and his CreateAbility team could develop a mobile app to bring the plan home for the person and bring it to life. Steve’s team delivered a first, basic version of the My Plan to Flourish App a few months later. Of course, we all thought the country would be open by then.

After seeing the elegant My Plan to Flourish App, we kept thinking about what an app could do not only for the individuals we support but also for parents and families, disabilities professionals (or Champions as the Dykstras identify them in A New Plan), and the leaders of provider organizations. We started to see the promise for each potential user. We went to work, framing two versions of the App: one for individuals and their support team and one for provider organizations.

As the pandemic raged around the globe, we focused on the needs and the challenges of each potential app user. As a result, the benefits of an electronic solution to renew person-centered planning became clearer and clearer.

Simple enough to use. Comprehensive enough to be useful.

One of the reasons we’re so pleased to be working with CreateAbility is their focus on designing technology solutions for people who need supports and those who provide the needed assistance.

The mobile App itself belongs to the individual owning the plan. Therefore, it needs to be easy to use, have a good, intuitive flow, and offer the user options that help with motivation and daily encouragement.

At the same time, a Champion needs an easy way to enter data, make changes, track a person’s wins, and stay on track with regular check-ins. The My Plan to Flourish App offers a version for provider organizations that includes an online portal for quickly entering or changing a person’s plan, printing the plan, and tracking progress.

Already under development, the next phase of the My Plan to Flourish App will include dashboards for organization leaders with helpful information for decision-making, resource allocation, and an indication of the overall level of flourishing throughout the organization.

How the App Changes the Game

Early in A New Plan, Thane Dykstra and Art Dykstra list the Five Essential Components of Person-Centered Planning:

1. The plan is used and valued by the person.

2. The Plan is in the person’s possession.

3. The plan is clear, meaningful, and achievable.

4. The person-centered plan is separate from the
     person-centered record and other documentation.

5. The plan is revised and updated regularly.

We expected that people who had their plan available to them—on their phone or tablet—were likely to engage with the plan and their support team more often, but only if that plan is truly theirs. The App is in beta-testing now. We expect to see an increase in the quality of plans leading to an increase in plan implementation and personal well-being. When near-term goals are important to the person who holds them, goal achievement increases as well. So far in our testing, this is frequently turning out to be the case, especially for staff who have the benefit of having all of the tools offered in A New Plan to help them.

A prime reason that the Dykstras wrote A New Plan is because much of what is called person-centered planning is based on legal and bureaucratic concerns. It is not a “plan” that a person would keep and use. The authors are specific about what categories of information and the quality of information to include in a person-centered plan. They consider the rest of the material to be part of the person-centered record.

The app format invites regular updates. As goal objectives are listed, started, and completed, the goal gets achieved. The app logs progress with reminders and encouragement along the way and helps the individual celebrate each win.

What the My Plan to Flourish App brings
to Person-Centered Planning

For the people we support:

    • A way to have their plan with them—an app
      that’s all about them and for them
    • A focus on individual well-being, including motivation
      to achieve personally important goals
    • A way to log and track even small bits of progress
      toward a goal (near-future version of the App)
    • Celebration of milestones along the way
      (near-future version of the App)

For parents, family, guardians:

    • A way to be more involved in caring for and
      supporting their loved one
    • A way to know what goals the person is
      working on and what progress is being made
    • Objective information helpful in talking
      with support people outside of the home
    • A way to see goal history over time

For the Champions: Disability professionals
(case managers, QIDPs, etc. – Plan facilitators
and leaders of the implementation team)

    • Less time doing paperwork means more time
      with the people they support
    • Progress tracking
    • Set up prompts for regular check-ins for plan
      implementation (near-future version of the App)
    • Quickly gauge whether a person is on track during
      a check-in or in danger of falling off-track
      (near-future version of the App)
    • Ways to record and track the contributions to
      an individual’s achievements from all members
      of the support team (near-future version of the App)

Organization Leadership (near-future version of the App)

    • Dashboards that help to quickly indicate level of
      well-being of people supported
    • Pinpoint where help and resources are needed
    • Offer clues about what is working

How My Plan To Flourish Is Different

As the Dykstra’s share in A New Plan, the purpose of My Plan
to Flourish is the same as the founders of the person-centered
movement intended —to support a person in living positively, to experience their best possible life, to enjoy today and to look forward to tomorrow while being able to act upon the opportunities and possibilities that come their way.

What is different is the contemporary approach and the inclusion of science by way of the principles of well-being as outlined in positive psychology.