Did you ever arrive at a meeting that was being called “Your ISP” only to be overwhelmed by all the paperwork, questions, and information? We can help!
First, let’s define what an ISP (Individual Support Plan) is and give you some background.
In Pennsylvania, beginning in 1991, Everyday Lives Principles became crucial in understanding why an ISP is essential. The Principles were developed by people with disabilities, family members, and their allies when asked questions such as, “What is important to you?” and, “What do you want in your life?” The answers were that people want choice, control, quality, stability, safety, individuality, relationships, freedom, success, an opportunity to contribute to the community, accountability, mentoring, community inclusion, and collaboration. These answers continue to serve as the guideposts for identifying services and supports.
In 2000, ODP (Office of Developmental Programs) worked to establish one standardized plan to be used across Pennsylvania – a plan that would facilitate person‐centered planning, and meet federal and state regulations. This plan is the ISP.
Person Centered Planning is a process used to write an ISP that summarizes an individual’s efforts to have positive control over the life they desire and find satisfying; ensure they are recognized and valued for their contributions to their communities (current and potential); and document your relationships with others who can help you meet your goals.
The ISP contains information that, in a sense, paints a picture of you with words. The goal is that, after reading a well‐developed ISP, the reader should feel that they have a good sense of who you are and what supports you may need in everyday life. It needs to tell your story, what and who is important to you, and what you want to achieve (including your hopes and dreams.)
This is a team process that includes YOU, your family, providers of service (your staff), the Supports Coordinator, and all others who are important in your life. Your ISP will guide those in your life to know what they need to do and when they need to do it to best help you.
If you left your last ISP meeting with a sense that there was no discussion about your life goals, or if you felt hopeless or confused or scared, the following tips may help. The meeting can seem very formal, and some people feel afraid. Try to remember that YOU are the most important person at your meeting! The paperwork should never take center stage; that spot is for you!
Where is the most comfortable meeting place for you? Who do you want to invite (your team of people who are important to you)? Who do you want to sit next to at the meeting? Your Supports Coordinator will work with you and your team to schedule the meeting at a time and place that is best for you. Get help (if you need it) to read your current ISP so you can be ready to talk about anything that you want to be changed, updated, or removed.
Get information that is required and give it to your Supports Coordinator
Doing this ahead of time will help keep your meeting more focused and save time for the most critical part – talking about your hopes and dreams!
MEDICAL: dates of all medical appointments; names/addresses/phone numbers of doctors; list of all current medications and when you take them; details of any changes or medical problems.
CONTACTS: all names/addresses/email/phone numbers of people on your team. Remember that the state also needs contact information for people who can help in an emergency.
FINANCIAL: paperwork about special needs trust, guardianship order, power of attorney orders. Paperwork related to changes in income or changes in Social Security payments.
INSURANCE/MEDICAID/MEDICARE: documents of current insurance plan, and status of Medicaid and Medicare benefits.
Prepare for what you want to discuss with your team
Here are the sections of the ISP that will record what is important and necessary for you to have a happy life. You may want to talk to someone or get help to write down what you want to say. You can bring notes to your meeting. These are the parts of the ISP that are “all about YOU!”
Key Sections of the ISP:
KNOW AND DO: This section includes detailed information about what you need to be safe, healthy, and lead a fulfilling, meaningful life. For example, it describes things like the best way to approach you in specific situations, coping strategies you use to get through difficult situations, routines you follow consistently, and relationships that are important to you.
IMPORTANT TO: To help you understand this, think of the things that are most important to you – things you would not want to live without. What is a “good day” for you? Sometimes things that are important to you (such as loving to be around cats and dogs) may run counter to what is vital for your health and safety (allergies.) There is another section called “Important For” that is used for this kind of information.
WHAT MAKES SENSE: Think about what is currently working well or going well ‐ in your life, and what is not making sense (or not going well) right now. Your team may feel differently than you do – and they can offer their opinions too.
UNDERSTANDING COMMUNICATION: This includes your preferences for how others should respond to how you communicate, whether verbal or non‐ verbal. You can give your team information to be sure that your methods and style of communication are understood. How do you use words, gestures, or actions to get your point across? What do you want people to do when you feel upset? (talk to you, give you some space, etc.) Your information may help others know when you are in pain or do not feel well.
What do you need to get where you want to be?
Supports come in all shapes and sizes, not just from staff. Think about what support you need and what is the best type of support for each situation. There are three types of support that may be helpful. They are NATURAL SUPPORT, TECHNOLOGY SUPPORT, AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUPPORT.
NATURAL SUPPORT – Everyone can benefit from the support of relationships with friends, family, and our community. Relationships with “natural support” people can help you experience all that your neighborhood and communities have to offer, such as worshiping, playing, hobbies, and having friendships.
TECHNOLOGY SUPPORT – What kinds of technology products may be helpful to you? Do you need help using a smartphone or the internet to learn about community events, look up recipes, or stay in touch with friends? Would utilizing an alarm help you get up in time for work? Would you feel more independent if you knew how to use technology to check the weather, so you know what to wear? Using technology may increase your independence across all aspects of your life, including health, wellness, and safety.
ENVIRONMENTAL SUPPORT – Consider visual reminders like calendars, notes by the door to remind you of things you need to do before going out, or pillboxes that make it easier to take medications. Do you need grab bars or non-skid surfaces to reduce falls or light switches that sense that it is getting dark?
What other services or staff do you need to help you? Depending on where you live, you may need help getting places. You may need someone to help you learn how to use or maintain the technology you use to stay independent. By thinking through and exploring all the types of support you currently use or might need, your ISP will help make sure you get the best support for each situation.
Consider learning more about Charting the LifeCourse to help you talk through and develop a clear vision for a good life. You can get a lot of information, training videos, and access all the toolkits at https://www.lifecoursetools.com/. You can ask your Supports Coordinator for help to get you started. Doing this work may help you decide what is most important to you, and what support you need to make your hopes and dreams become real.