What is the Full Life Ahead H.O.P.E. Planning Process?
Full Life Ahead Planning Process (H.O.P.E...Helping Other People Envision) occurs
when a group of family, friends and professionals create a “reliable alliance’’ for
the purpose of creatively, energetically, and joyfully translating great expectations
into realities and promoting the preferences of the individual and family.
How Do We Create An Action Plan?
A. INVITING SUPPORT
Identify someone to facilitate your group. The role of the facilitator is a key
one because the facilitator makes sure all other tasks are carried out. The
facilitator needs to be a person, whom you can trust, that is willing to make a
commitment to become a part of a reliable alliance, has strong communication skills, and is able to connect verbally and emotionally with all group members.
Identify the family members, friends, community, and professionals who are already involved in your life. Think through how each has contributed to supporting your family. Identify your family’s definition of helpful support.
What are your son or daughter’s great expectations for the future? What are
the great expectations of other family members? Consider a couple of the
highest priority great expectations and think of the people who you already know and even those who you do not know who could help make those great
Think through the interests, strengths, and needs that might link your son or
daughter and your other family members with a wider circle of supporters.
(Does your child want to play soccer, take an art class, or listen to rock
bands? Does your family want to be part of a religious community or go to
community sporting events?) Develop an awareness of friends, extended
family, and professionals who may be able to support you in pursuing your interests and strengths.
To the maximum extent appropriate, involve your son or daughter as a H.O.P.E.
team member. Encourage that involvement. Provide opportunities for him or
her to be involved in a comfortable role. There may be meetings when he or
she chooses not to participate or chooses to attend only a portion of the
meeting. Age, attention span, and comfort (with being the center of conversation, particularly when frustrating community barriers or behavioral chal
lenges are being discussed) are all considerations in deciding when and to
what extent that your son or daughter might participate or want to participate.
Issue invitations to join the group. Do this after you have considered a whole
range of people. Invitations can come from the individual with a disAbility,
you or other family members, or the facilitator. One way to extend the invitation is to invite people to come to the first meeting to find out more about
what is involved. By giving them a chance to participate in a meeting and
meet others prior to making a definite commitment, you give them more information about what is involved. You also should tell them from the outset
that, if active group participation does not work out for them for any
reason, they can always withdraw from participation... and you will still be
friends. Have nametags. Everyone will be more comfortable!
Let everyone know that people can join at any time. You may discover new people to add, as new issues and great expectations emerge. Anyone within the
group is welcome to invite people that they feel can add to the current
situation that is trying to be solved. Sometimes the best solutions come
from participants that none of us previously knew!
B. CREATING CONNECTIONS
Let each individual know how valuable his or her support is. Affirm the positive
contributions and strengths of everyone. If some people tend to “be on the
fringe” of the group, seek ways to get them more involved and to help them
Create a sense of connectedness. Help people enjoy themselves, feel comfortable, and develop a sense that they, too, can derive support from this reliable alliance.
Listen for and celebrate the special events and occasions in the lives of group
members. For example, when someone in the group is in a play, acknowledge
and celebrate it. When sadness occurs in the lives of group members, provide consolation and support. Try to let everyone (including the individual
with a disAbility) feel the group cares for and about each one.
Create an informal atmosphere for socialization through the meetings. Have
food available for snacking and refreshment. Arrange seating so that it is
comfortable, e.g., people sitting in a circle in a living room or family room, as
contrasted to sitting around a table.
Infuse laughter and joy into each gathering. Avoid somberness.
Turn a crisis into an opportunity. Experiencing a crisis can help create a sense
of reliable alliance when people have an opportunity to share disappointment,
hurt, and frustration. Often individuals and families have been conditioned
to keep their major worries to themselves and to conceal their biggest problems. When a crisis does happen, the more the individual and family shares
with the group and is open about their feelings, the more the group has an
opportunity to respond and to create a sense of truly being a reliable alliance. Remember that every crisis is an opportunity for more connections
and for problem-solving.
C. SHARING GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Share your priority great expectations for the future. Form the first meeting,
give other members of the group an opportunity to affirm and even embellish these great expectations by beginning to develop “what if” and to “why
Listen for the expression of great expectations and acknowledge and underscore those when they are shared.
Recognize that great expectations evolve over time. The great expectations
that people have at the beginning may seem like only moderate expectations
at a later time. Thus, the unfolding of expectations should be viewed as
an exciting and dynamic process.
Seek to stay open to ideas that truly push the limits of possibilities. Encourage seemingly outlandish thinking. Hold back from dismissing options
simply because you’ve never heard of a person with a disAbility who has had
success with the option. Embrace the opportunity to be a pioneer.
D. SOLVING PROBLEMS
Solve problems. The facilitator has a key role in guiding the group through the
steps of systematic problem solving. The beginning of the process requires
focusing on a particular great expectation and specifying what needs to hap-
pen for that expectation to be realized.
Do dynamic brainstorming. Encourage everyone to freely brainstorm with-
out the feeling that their ideas will be censored or immediately evalu-
ated. One of the key contributions of having diverse membership in the ac-
tion group is to broaden the range possible options that are identified and
considered. Thus, brainstorming should be a highly open and creative
Consider the specific options that are most likely to be successful in addressing
needs and barriers and in building on strengths. Do a careful analysis of the
pros and cons of different options.
Select the most appropriate option and delineate a specific implementation plan.
This implementation plan should identify the people who are going to take
action, how the group can be supportive, and when a progress report should
be made to the group. The responsibilities for follow through need to be
spread across different group members and involve people who are not in the
group, as long as group members can help with coordination and communication with those people. One of the key components of action groups is the
action that happens between meetings in getting tasks accomplished in order
to help great expectations be realized. Thus, people need to leave the meeting with a clear understanding of what they need to do and a commitment to
get it done on the timeline that has been specified.
Promote systematic problem solving in a way that is participatory, creative, dy-
namic, and organized. A facilitator will be far more successful in the role if
she or he has experienced success in individual and group problem solving in
the past. Facilitators need to have a balance between structure and rational
problem-solving, on the one hand; and warmth, openness, and flexibility, on
the other hand. They need to energize the group with the belief that
practically anything is possible.
Set a comfortable pace and seek to make progress at every meeting and in im-
plementing the action plans between meetings. Keep people interested by
noting that the individual’s life is truly getting better because of the great
expectations that are being accomplished. Progress is essential to keep mo-
Get everyone involved. Direct specific questions to the individuals who are not
having a chance to participate and either directly or indirectly communicate
to the people who are dominating the process that others need to have a
Limit your efforts. Systematic problem solving can only be accomplished on one
or two issues during a meeting. One mistake that some people make is to try
to work on too many things simultaneously. By focusing on one or two issues
and developing a systematic specific plan, great progress will be made over
time. Thus, the facilitator needs to keep the group directed on what is man-
ageable to accomplish during a given meeting.
Summary: Every meeting should end with a clear summary of the implementa-
tion steps that need to occur before the next meeting. The facilitator will
write up a copy of all of the flip chart notes and the sign in list with emails
and send to all participants so that everyone will be “on the same page”.
Celebrate progress. Every meeting needs to have opportunities to celebrate
progress. The facilitator needs to model and other group members will
quickly join in affirming progress, strengths, and positive contributions.
Allow and encourage gratitude. It is very important for the individual with a
disAbility and family to let people know how much their support is ap-
preciated and how good they feel about the progress that is being
Eat and drink. Special snacks can be added to the meetings as an element of
celebration. This might include a birthday cake for some group member, a
special menu that consists of people’s favorite foods, or some seasonal re-
membrance such as Valentine candy for everyone. In the South especially,
food brings people together, light snacks or a light meal will bring people
together in a light-hearted manner.
Develop the “joy quotient.” Set aside time to “party” rather than to “problem
solve.” There might be a time at the end of a school year or even just in the
middle of winter to have a get-together that is characterized totally by fri-
volity and enjoyment. All different kinds of diverse ideas can be considered
from having a chance for people to watch a sporting event, sing along with a
group member who plays a guitar, have different group members put on an
impromptu talent show, or have a cook-out in the backyard. The key is
that people are having fun together, feeling positive about the great
expectations that are getting put into place, and deriving a sense of
connection and nurture from each other.