Special Education

Person-Centered Practices

Person-centered practices are a continuum of strategies and activities that support the informed choice of students and families to make or have input into both 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.

Many person-centered practices or methods have been developed. The information here is not meant to include all of those options available. If there are planning methods you are using with students and families in Minnesota, please share your experience and outcomes with MDE’s person-centered practices team (mde.person-centered@state.mn.us).

What does person-centered mean?

Person-centered principles and practices are a way of assuring that people with disabilities have the same rights and responsibilities as other people, including having control over their lives, making their own choices and contributing to the community in a way that makes sense to the person. The renewed emphasis on person-centered work comes from multiple sources, including federal rules and requirements, state rules, state statute and a court settlement agreement.

Person-centered practices are a cornerstone of Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan to provide individuals with disabilities the opportunities to live their lives like individuals without disabilities. For more information about the Olmstead Plan, visit Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan on this website.

Why use person-centered practices?

Used as a continuum, person-centered practices can 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.

The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) will guide the development of training, support and strategies to implement person-centered practices.

  • Practices are strategies/activities that are teachable, doable, repeatable and measurable.
  • 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.

MDE Person-Centered Practices Training Opportunities Currently Available

MDE will focus on supporting educators to implement person-centered practices that have the following core features:

  • Strengths-based.
  • Person and family-led.
  • Involves people from across home, school and community.
  • Awareness and sensitivity to issues of culture, race, age, sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Information about student and family preferences to ensure each team member’s preparedness.
  • Informed choice that balances information that is both important to and for the person.

Person-Centered Thinking (PCT): (view PDF): Everyone needs to use the person-centered skills that underlie person-centered planning. PCT makes it more likely that plans developed will be used, acted on and require less effort and time to update since information is gathered naturally through everyday discovery tools.

MDE will schedule free two-day PCT trainings each year. Trainings for 2020 are:

Interagency Coordinated Individualized Education Program (IEP): A pilot project designed to improve outcomes for students by using the IEP process to improve interagency coordination and use core concepts of person-centered practices.

Person-Centered Planning – Picture of a Life (PoL): (view PDF): A formal person-centered planning process to identify what a person wants in his or her life when considering a transition. Through the use of graphic recording, participants learn how to help teams discover what needs to be present in a person’s life to contribute to his or her happiness, comfort, and satisfaction – all while ensuring health and safety.

Person-Centered Documents for Getting Started On Your Own

These are documents available for those who want to implement person-centered practices on their own in IEPs and everyday practices.

How to Add Person-Centered Features in IEPs: This document provides recommendations of good practices that are not required, but can be helpful to increase student and family engagement in the IEP planning process. Use this document to add person-centered features that may 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.

One-Page Description: This document provides an overview about one-page descriptions that can be developed as a positive way to share key information about what is important to a person, what people like about a person, and how to best support a person across different settings like school, home and the community.

For more information or answers to questions about the material on this page, email MDE’s person-centered practices team (mde.person-centered@state.mn.us) or call 651-582-8590.