The dreams, aspirations and needs of a person with intellectual disabilities (ID) should be the starting point of supports from a professional organization. Furthermore, supports should focus on the strengths of a person and should also include the social network of the person. The individual support plan (ISP) is an instrument to describe the supports that are needed. It is an instrument that can be used to enhance self-determination and, if done well, can empower a person with ID. Working with ISP’s can also enhance the feeling of belonging, the feeling that the person with ID has an important opinion and is taken serious as experts on their own lives. The current study focuses on the perceptions and experiences of Dutch persons with ID with respect to their involvement in their ISP.
A participatory approach was used in the study as two people with ID were part of the research group. Data were gathered through semi-structured interviews with 61 people with mild to moderate ID. Participants were recruited in 23 Dutch service provider organizations. A systematic qualitative analysis was performed on the interview transcripts.
Although persons with ID are present at their ISP meeting, active client involvement in developing, executing and evaluating the ISP is not common practice. Issues of accessibility and lack of control over the process and content of ISP hamper effective involvement of people with ID.
The study shows that people with ID do not feel empowered by the process and content of their ISP. The ISP places great emphasis on the problems and disabilities somebody is or has been facing, rather than focusing on their strengths and dreams. There needs to be attention to the facilitation of active involvement of people with ID and the content of an ISP for it to function as a tool for enhancing self-determination and empowerment.