Person-centered thinking

Person-Centered Thinking: What Is It?


Person-Centered Thinking is putting the person first. Through history, the treatment of people with disabilities and the services they receive have been glum. The focus has has been mostly on keeping people healthy and safe, leading to a one-size-fits-all approach in segregated schools, special education classrooms, institutions, group homes, and vocational rehab programs.

Person-centered thinkingAs a community, it is imperative we start looking at each individual person to discover what is important to them to live a life that is meaningful and purposeful to them. Person-Centered Thinking is about truly listening to people who receive services as they pursue their hopes and dreams. Every person has a dream no matter how big or small. As people continue to grow and change, so do their hopes and dreams. The team of people who provide support must recognize these changes and be the champions for the person to see the goals come to life.

A Process that Digs Deep

The Person-Centered Thinking process digs deep, looking at a person’s rituals, routines, likes, dislikes, relationships, and communication styles. No one fits in a pretty little box. All people want to be heard and listened to regardless of their communication style. As an adult, I have control of the life I want to live. Everyone should be able to have a say and control of their lives regardless of their disability.

As a state, Minnesota is required to provide person-centered services for people with disabilities. Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan lays out activities for state agencies “to ensure people with disabilities are living, learning, working, and enjoying life in the most integrated setting.” Person-Centered Thinking is a central to this end. This must be the way we support the people we love and those we support.

Listening Changes Lives

As a Person-Centered Thinker and Planner, I have witnessed the incredible value it has for all people. Lives are changed for the better when we open up our minds to listen. From a young man moving from supported living with four roommates into his own apartment he hopes to soon share with his fiancé, to another woman building her own creative business on Etsy and training others on Person-Centered Thinking, powerful examples abound.

As a mother to a now 18-year old man living with autism, I have seen Person-Centered Thinking give my son the opportunity to be heard and supported in a way that he chooses. He now is living a life of purpose and meaning that he shaped versus the life others believe is best for him. All people want to be heard and valued. We all want to be contributing members of society.

For more information about Person-Centered Thinking, please visit the Learning Community
website at

Author: Tanya

With a background in education, Tanya is devoted to guiding young families along the path of parenting children with autism. Her inspiration is her son.


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