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Understanding the ISP

Because my adult son receives services through the Innovations Waiver program, we contribute to his ISP, or Individual Support Plan. During the school years, we were familiar with the IEP (Individualized Education Program), but since we transitioned into the post-school era, the document that we work on every year is the ISP.

An ISP is a detailed written plan that includes notes about the activities, supports, and resources required for the individual with a disability to achieve their personal goals. This plan is developed to articulate decisions and agreements made during the person-centered planning and information gathering that includes personal preferences, dreams, and wishes; medical history/current medical concerns; and communication preferences.

The ISP is developed annually, like an IEP. Just as an IEP spells out the services, supports, and specialized instruction a child with disability will receive in school, an ISP spells out services for that individual in their routine life. Your Care Coordinator will complete the ISP, and while ISP templates may differ slightly depending on the MCO (Managed Care Organization), this blog covers the general sections included so that you can prepare for an ISP meeting.

When you have an ISP meeting, consider including pictures of your loved one with autism if they are not present for the meeting. Also consider including the people who play a vital role in their day-to-day life.


What does an ISP include?

  • The ISP begins with a discussion of what people like and admire about that person. This list of attributes includes positive traits, characteristics, accomplishments, and strengths. This information sets the tone for the plan and should be gathered from multiple viewpoints. It is intended to highlight an individual’s admirable qualities and should only present his or her “positive” reputation.
  • The plan should include a personalized statement of the person’s expectations for the future and state who will be responsible for providing the supports and services to reach those goals.
  • A list of relationships in his/her life which includes Natural, Unpaid, Paid, and Community Supports.
  • An assessment of the current life situation which includes where the person lives and supports needed for daily activities, including communications preferences, dietary concerns, and vision/hearing aids.
  • List of school/vocational supports, including vocational history, strategies for learning new skills, and transportation needs.
  • Assessment of the individual’s social network, including favorite places and activities, support necessary to participate in activities, and preferred relationships.
  • A medical section that includes any identified health needs, such as professional medical supports, health and wellness supports, and any current medications, ongoing health screenings/preventative care appointments, or nutritional supports.
  • A behavioral section that includes behavioral supports and how those are addressed.
  • A section to identify what’s working well and needs to stay the same or be enhanced.
  • A section to identify anything that is not working well in the individual’s life and needs to change.
  • A section on Crisis Prevention and Intervention which details significant event/events that might cause increased stress or trigger a crisis. Include signs to look for, early intervention strategies, and a response/stabilization technique to support the individual.
  • Specific recommendations for interacting with the person when they’re receiving a crisis service.
  • Action Plan for current year. The Action Plan will include specific Short Range Goals. These Short Range Goals can be skills the individual hasn’t yet acquired/learned, but needs to do so or skills that the individual has learned and needs to maintain. Short Range Goals should be written so that the skill (or portion of the skill) can be achieved over the course of the ISP (one year).
  • Finally, the ISP includes signatures of team members, including the care coordinator.


How do you know that the ISP is an accurate reflection of the person? Things to check for:

  • It is unique to the individual.
  • Focuses on abilities.
  • Shows the person’s choices and preferences.
  • Is respectful.
  • People significant to the individual were involved.
  • Identifies social connection.
  • Maintains confidentiality.
  • Hopes/dreams/goals are a priority to the individual.
  • Hopes/dreams/goals are realistic.
  • Hopes/dreams/goals are precise & measurable.
  • Hopes/dreams/goals state how they are to be met.


All in all, ISP is a great collaborative plan that coordinates various services and supports, sets accountability, creates a communication plan between all service providers, and help individuals with disability live a richer meaningful life.



Related information:
Developing Independence with a ‘Who Supports Me’ List
Transitioning to Adulthood


Shagun Gaur, an Autism Resource Specialist in the Charlotte region, can be reached at sgaur@autismsociety-nc.org or 704-894-9678.


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