Do Individualized Support Plans Benefit Persons Served?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that approximately 3 percent(somewhere between 7 to 8 million people) of the general population experience intellectual disabilities; furthermore, approximately 30 million American families (or one in ten) are directly affected by an individual who has an intellectual disability at some point in their lives.


From Facility-Based Services to Individualized Support

Pam Walker is a research project director at the Center on Human Policy: Institute on Community Integration: She also authored the study Strategies for organizational change from group homes to individualized supports.

Walker states that for years, organizations have been working toward converting adults with developmental disabilities from facility-based services to individualized support; nonetheless, she states that such conversion requires not only a change in services, but also modifications to the organizational culture of the person being served. According to Walker, organizational change necessitates caregivers to establish a continuing process; thus, requiring dedication and commitment.


Substantial Increase in Life Expectancy Substantiates the Need for Individual Service Plans

Collectively, individuals who have intellectual disabilities have a shorter life expectancy when compared to the general population; however, ultimately, the underlying cause of the disability dictates the risk an individual has of premature death. For instance, according to the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, as recent as 1983, individuals with Down syndrome generally had a life expectancy of no more than 25 years: Today, individuals who have Down syndrome have a life span of 60 years.

This increase in life span is believed to be due to the dismantling of the institutions that previously housed people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Since people who have Down syndrome have been remaining at home (as opposed to being institutionalized), their intelligence quotients (IQs) have increased by 20 points; moreover, most of these individuals are attending public schools and learning how to read, and write. Some of these individuals graduate receiving a typical degree.


Individualized Support Plans (ISP)

An individualized support plan is a document that is created through a person centered planning process.


An ISP identifies an individual’s:

  • Strengths
  • Preferences
  • Capacities
  • Needs
  • Personal Outcomes

An ISP is designed to determine the intellectual functioning and adaptive functioning of the person to be served. While intellectual functioning refers to an individual’s mental abilities, adaptive functioning relates to the skills necessary for daily living.


There are three sets of skills that make up adaptive functioning:

  1. Social Skills
  2. Conceptual Skills
  3. Practical Life Skills


Creating an ISP

Each individual’s ISP is tailored to meet his or her specific needs. A person’s individual support plan is based on assessments gathered through various tests: These tests allow medical professionals to review an individual’s comprehensive information; thus, having the ability to provide the person served with the support he or she needs to enjoy a more independent lifestyle.

Information gathered for assessment includes the individual’s:

  • Needs
  • Preferences
  • Abilities
  • Goals
  • Health Status


Other Supports Available in His or Her Area

There are public and private services available to people who have intellectual disabilities: The services available vary. The services utilized in an ISP are based on the specific services offered in the state and county in which the person served resides.


Services Available in the Majority of Communities

Community-Based Social Service Programs

Supportive services and individual support plans are usually provided through an individual’s community-based social service program. These services may be utilized throughout the person’s lifetime or may be intermittent and only employed as needed. ISPs are designed to describe which services and supports the person served needs to ensure his or her continued success. Individual support plans promote independence and self-determination.


Standardized Testing

Standardized tests may be utilized to evaluate an individual’s adaptive abilities and limitations. One test commonly used is the Supports Intensity Scale (SIS).

  • The Supports Intensity Scale (SIS) Test
    • The first section of the SIS rates an individual’s limitations and abilities in six areas:
      1. Community Living
      2. Home Living
      3. Life-Long Learning
      4. Health and Safety
      5. Employment
      6. Social Activities

Once the needs of the individual are identified, support strategies to meet the needs of the person served are proposed. When creating an individualized support plan for an adult, the supports and the skills necessary for independent living are typically targeted. These skills include supported housing, social skills training and supported employment.


How Individual Service Plans Benefit the Persons Served

These therapeutic services improve the adaptive behavioral skills of the person served:


Speech Therapy

  • This therapy is designed to improve an individual’s ability to communicate effectively, topics include:
    • Speech Articulation
    • Vocabulary Enhancement
    • Expressive and Receptive Language Skills


Occupational Therapy

  • Occupational therapy teaches the person served how to perform daily activities, which include:
    • Domestic Activities – cleaning, cooking and laundry.
    • Self-Care – dressing oneself, grooming, feeding and bathing.
    • Leisure Activities – playing games, knitting, etc.

This form of therapy also addresses the individual’s employment activities and skills.


Physical Therapy

  • Designed to enhance the quality of life for the person served by improving his or her mobility. Physical therapy can help provide adaptive solutions for mobility problems as well as increasing sensory integration.

Once complete, an individualized service plan provides the person served with a mix of complimentary and paid supports, and services available within his or her community. The ultimate goal of the ISP is to assist the person served in achieving his or her personally defined outcome.

Trina McMillin

Trina brings to Relias a wealth of knowledge and personal experience related to the medical field, dental issues, mental health, and physical therapy techniques. She has worked in various positions over her career which includes being a phlebotomist, laboratory assistant and medical transcriptionist.

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