Districts, Schools and Educators

Person-Centered Practices Tools, Strategies and Tips #1

November 2020

During the 2020-21 school year, we’re seeing many changes in the way we do our work, but using person-centered practices remains as important as ever.


Person-centered practices are strategies and activities that support students and families to make informed choices or have input into major transitions and everyday life decisions. Person-centered practices focus on the interests and needs of the person receiving instruction or support. They emphasize each person’s strengths and dreams rather than weaknesses or deficits.

Person-centered practices provide a common language to use across students, families and teams. They ensure that all students and their families have teams that use the most current information about their strengths, interests and needs to make informed choices about where they will learn, work, live and play in the most integrated settings possible, where they can be active members of their home, school and local community. Students and their families are the focus as they take the lead in the discussion and decision-making regarding where they will live, learn, work and play.

Other applications include:

  • Advocating for the supports needed to accomplish students’ goals
  • Setting higher expectations for students
  • Students can learn how life experiences affect their career goals
  • Families can explore the services and supports they need
  • Parents, siblings, and family members are able to share their ideas, hopes, and fears for the future
  • Case managers can use person-centered practices in planning meetings, such as an IEP.
  • Teachers can support students improving social skills at school, at home, and in the community
  • Employment specialists can enhance discovery and exploration that support career planning
  • Counselors can provide guidance and educating about life possibilities
  • Leaders can transform organizations

Ten suggestions for adding person-centered features in Individualized Educational Programs (IEPs)

Person-centered practices can help to increase student and family engagement in the IEP planning process. Use the Ten Suggestions document on the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) website to add person-centered features that support students to:

  • Have more control over their lives
  • Make more of their own choices
  • Contribute to their school and community in a way that makes sense to them.

The Ten Suggestions for Adding Person-Centered Features in Individualized Educational Programs (IEPs) assist an IEP Team to provide a person-centered focus to the IEP process. They provide actions to take before, during and after the IEP meeting, and links to tools that will help facilitate the actions and encourage active participation. The document also links to a short overview video introducing some of the person-centered tools used in the 10-step process.

Suggested Implementation

Find one or two professionals who are interested in trying this process with a few students and their IEP teams (a good trial would entail 5-10 students for each professional). Provide opportunities for the professionals to talk with others about what they liked, what they found helpful and reactions from students, parents and other team members. A more formal evaluation process can be developed to collect this data.

One way to provide feedback to the state team regarding the utility and results of the process and tools is to use the pre-meeting and post-meeting surveys on the Alchemer website.