Most of us at some point in our lives have pondered the age old question “what do I want to be when I grow up?” Some of us are still trying to decide well into adulthood. If each of us took the time to sit down and think about what we’re good at, what we’re passionate about, and what we want to explore, we might just discover something we didn’t know we could do in life.

In March of this year, Dianna Hansen (pictured right with student) and Caitlin Shockey of FACT Oregon — an organization committed to empowering families experiencing disabilities — dedicated time to work with students at Crook County High School in Prineville and Obsidian Middle School in Redmond.

After working at the schools, Shockey said, “[What] makes my heart sing is that every child and youth that I’ve met, without fail, has an interest in working, and has hopes for their future. It’s so important that we listen to our youth and encourage them to aim high and meet their full potential. Adults are often the ones setting limits…when we promote big dreams, we’ll see better outcomes.”

The FACT Oregon team met with students with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) at each school and facilitated workshops focusing on identifying students’ interests and strengths as well as each student’s goals for the future. They engaged students in a process of person-centered planning, which began with a short presentation about self-determination and how to dream big for the future.

According to Hansen, “[Person-centered planning] is often one of the first times people have come together in a group to talk about all the strengths, gifts and capacities of the person.The most rewarding thing for me is to see the young person walk out of the room with confidence and a sense of value as well as a team of people who are willing to help them reach their goals.”

One-page profiles are commonly used, and have proved to be especially helpful for young adults with IDDs. A finished profile of a student identifies: what people admire about that person, what that person finds important, and the most effective forms of support for that person.

While working in Prineville, Shockey worked with a young adult who started an innovative business, turning old family home movies into DVDs and digital media.

“He was clearly skilled in using technology and it’s wonderful to see someone find a career that matches their gifts,” said Shockey. “Self-employment is such a unique option for people with disabilities and I hope more people are supported to pursue it if they choose.”

By assisting the students in a process of self-reflection, Hansen and Shockey are able to help each student compile a one-page profile. Profiles like these ensure that the people who support a young adult who has an IDD can understand the person better, and can ensure that they are providing the person with consistent and appropriate support.

Hansen stressed the severe lack of future-focused planning for youth with IDDs.

“Many young people with disabilities are not really asked those questions, or they are asked and someone else answers for them. It’s exciting and empowering for us all to think about what we want to do in life and to have those big dreams. It’s the trajectory that we need to work hard towards a big goal,” said Hansen.

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