Planning for the future is a daunting task for any young adult getting ready to strike out on their own. For people with limited physical and/or developmental abilities, planning for the future can seem even more arduous. Here are six tips on how you can help make planning for the future easier for a person with an intellectual and/or developmental disability:

1. Sit next to them rather than across from them

This makes the process feel far more collaborative for the person with whom you are working. Sitting next to each other while you plan will make the person feel less like you are talking to them and more like you are working with them. Sitting side-by-side also allows them to see what you write down as you write it.

2. Write down their words, not yours

As you sit next to them, ensure that you take notes about what they are telling you. When they make a particularly important point, circle it. That way, they can see that you are listening closely and that you care about planning their future with them.  (Add that you can also draw pictures representing concepts, dreams, visions…..)

3. Don’t do all of the talking

For many people, listening more than they speak can be a real struggle. It is important to remember every time you meet with someone that you are there to facilitate their planning, not to do all of the planning for them. The feeling of planning one’s own future is a huge confidence boost for the student. Take the time to listen and ask questions.

4. Draw/use visuals

Use visuals and drawings as you work together. Keep a blank sheet of paper ready in case you hit a sticking  point. Illustrating an idea or concept can go a long way to ensuring that you and the student are on the same page.

5. Look for the “seed” of the dream.

For this step, it is vital to employ tip three about listening instead of talking. As the student tells you about their dream job or their dream life, listen for the seed of that dream. What is on the surface or what first comes to their mind isn’t always what they are looking for. For example, if they say they want to be a doctor, ask them what it is about doctors that they like. Evaluating the underlying causes of why one career is particularly attractive to them can help reveal other potential pathways that call on those same skills.

6. Have fun

Every time you meet with a student, make sure not to take the process too seriously. By making planning the future a fun event where you and your student are free to be goofy and have fun, the planning itself becomes more enjoyable.

FACT Oregon works with families experiencing disabilities, and engages with students in person-centered planning, allowing students to determine their own paths after graduation.

FACT Oregon’s objective is to help individuals with limited abilities gain the skills that they need to plan their futures and achieve their personal goals.

For more information about person-centered planning, visit:

FACT Oregon
Pacer’s National Parent Center on Transition and Employment
The Center on Brain Injury Research and Training (Transition Toolkit)
Planning Worksheet (Oregon Transition Handbook)
Planning Worksheet Example (Oregon Transition Handbook)
— CJ Fritz