A new way to plan and set goals for children with a disability

With the National Disability Insurance Scheme’s Inner West and South East Sydney rollout approaching next year, having a vision for your child instead of a checklist of therapies is essential. Setting goals enables you to get the most out of the new system, receive a suitable funding package and achieve positive outcomes for your child and family. Coming up with a vision and setting goals requires good planning.

At Plumtree, we are developing new planning methods so families can more effectively transition to the NDIS. We also want to improve the experience, as we are involved in a lot of planning meetings either for our work or as parents of children with disabilities.

You know what they’re like: usually quite formal, with professionals asking a series of set questions that include identifying our strengths and needs. The information is later typed up, and the plan is presented as a document.

And here’s the problem—the plan is usually read once and then put away, never to be seen again.

So we set out to transform and innovate the experience by creating a new planning tool. Unlike traditional methods typically led by professionals, it involves the family as an active part of the process.

Setting a vision and telling your family’s story

For some parents, being asked on the spot to come up with a vision for their child can be very daunting. It sounds so ambiguous at first, even writing something down is difficult.

Our planning tool, Pictability, is visually based. It involves selecting a toy character to represent your child and picture cards that identify things that are most important for your family. The cards are designed to stimulate new ideas and consider the bigger picture in the future; by sorting through these cards, goals become clearer and are written on blank cards. The process is like a game and takes an hour or two to complete.

Photos from this session are incorporated into an e-book on an iPad: this becomes your child’s plan. But unlike other plans, it is a living document that grows with you. As well as containing the vision and strategies developed together, you and your Plumtree key worker can record your child’s progress or suggest strategies in the e-book. Audio, video, photos (think of all of those great family pics that can be used!) or text are inserted into pre-set page layouts and embellished with “well done!” stickers and doodles.

Rather than being filed away, the e-book is easy and fun to use, so you can continue to document and celebrate achievements big and small. It is an inspiring storybook of your family that you will love returning to. Parents have responded very positively—some have even customised sections to look like a comic book. Children have also enthusiastically contributed to the e-book’s content. It can also be shared to engage other family members or used as a vital tool for carers and teachers at school.

Learning into the future

The planning tool and e-book are a part of Plumtree’s Now and Next program, which aims to give parents and carers the skills and resources that we use to provide care for their children in the future. We want families to take the lead when the NDIS rolls out and ensure they continue to learn beyond the time boundaries of our programs and services. More information on the e-book can be found here. If you are with Plumtree and would like to book a planning session with Pictability contact info@plumtree.org.au or speak with your Key Worker.

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