What is Person Centred Practice?

Person Centred:  An approach to working with people which puts the individual’s needs and aspirations firmly at the centre of the process.

There is so much talk about Person Centred Practice and to be honest, I wasn’t too sure what it meant.  I had an idea that the definition above was correct but what did it mean to my children in real terms?  Was it just another one of those phrases that arrives in the world of SEN?

So I starting talking to people, reading about it and I came up with a comparison that I could relate to and I hope this helps you.

2012-08-03-14-34-07Imagine it’s your son/daughter’s birthday and you want to make them a cake.  You have never baked a cake before (except for one that came from a packet and you just added an egg and water) so you google a basic recipe and off to the local shop you go.

You eventually find the baking aisle and wow, so much to choose from but you have your list.

So self raising flour please.  Oh hang on, they only have plain flour.  Now you’ve never made a cake and to be honest, your only expertise in the kitchen is reading the back of the ready meals, so what do you do?  Will plain flour do the same job, or does that “self raising” bit make a difference?

There’s no one around so you look at the next item – “butter”.  Oh that’s easy, off to the refrigerators to pick it up but they’ve sold out.  You find a young girl stacking shelves but she explains that they no longer sell butter however, there is a shop 20 miles away that always has butter in stock.

Back to the baking aisle for the caster sugar, but, they only have granulated.  This is getting annoying now but then you think maybe this is not ideal but possibly, if you just grind it down a bit with that pestle and mortar you have in the back of a cupboard somewhere, it will do the job.

Eggs next.  Off you go and hey, guess what, there are no eggs to be seen anywhere.  You find a member of staff and are told that there is a wait list at the moment for eggs and they can’t meet the demand.

At this point, you are losing the will to go on – how frustrating is this?  One last shot – vanilla essence (you may as well get it while you’re here) but guess what?  Where the shelf for flavourings and essence is, there is a stack of paper and you take a glance to see it is a four page application to appy for any essence.  It states clearly that you will have to meet the criteria of a panel of judges to obtain the essence but there is no mention of what this criteria is.


2012-07-24-22-13-11At this point, you head off to the bakery and buy the only cake left – an ultimate chocolate cake.  Your child doesn’t like crunchy chocolate but it’s all that is available so you grab it.  As you drive home, close to tears, you feel like the biggest failure as a parent possible.

Now anyone reading this will be laughing and thinking “shop elsewhere”!

However, if you have a child with additional needs, there is often only the one “shop” to go to.  The location of the shop is not known to all so it will take a bit of investigation before you find out where it is (sadly getting a diagnosis doesn’t give you the directions you need).  The products this shop sells are the services your child needs to help them achieve their potential.  Now imagine shopping for those services only to be told they are out of stock, they are no longer available, they have an alternative that isn’t quite what your child needs but it will have to do, the service is available but you have to travel 20 miles to access it or the service is available but to access it you have to meet criteria that they won’t share.

Now imagine driving home, close to tears, really feeling like the biggest failure of a parent possible because there was no “ultimate chocolate cake” to take away.

Welcome to the life of a parent or carer of a child with additional needs.  Person Centred Planning is writing the list of ingredients/services your child needs from the “supermarket” and then accessing them.

Can you imagine if your child needed the Ultimate Chocolate Cake and all the ingredients that entails?

Can you imagine actually getting all the ingredients/services needed?

Some people already do fantastic work in the world of person centred planning – Helen Sanderson and In Control to name but two.  It is not rocket science, it’s about accepting that children are individuals, as are their families.  They may have the same diagnosis label but this may be the only thing they have in common.

A bit missing  has a great post about person centred planning, as Gail says “it is just common sense”.  It is also reportedly the aim of the SEN Green Paper pathfinders.  We’ll just have to wait and see how that works out.

Have you used Person Centred Planning (sorry, I can’t abbreviate it and ask if you have used PCP, can I?)  What has been your experience of Person Centred Planning?

Do you like Helen’s idea of using a one page profile?  What’s stopping you putting something together over the holidays?

get-rid-of-the-boxI would love to hear of your experiences but also your questions and concerns.  Do you like learning about things in a blog or would you prefer a video, a handout or a workshop?

I am going to be working with others to educate and empower parents to use person centred planning for their children so let me know what works for you and how you want this information providing.


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