We are very proud of what we have created, but this is only the beginning.
We founded Sonderbloom, the parent company of LifeCourseOnline (LCO), with the goal of helping vulnerable individuals live full, meaningful lives. Our aim was to maximize individuals’ independence, choice, and inclusion in their communities through thoughtful program design, informed by years of experience in the social services sector. In many ways, LifeCourseOnline is the realization of this ambition. LCO was originally designed to address gaps in the use of person-directed planning to support people with developmental disabilities. Since its launch, it has evolved to become many more things—a communication platform, a planning tool, a program, a community—for people with a broad range of supported-living needs.
Why we built LCO
Person-directed plans (PDPs), sometimes referred to as person-centered plans, are used to help individuals identify a vision for their “good life”. Although there are a variety of approaches to this type of planning, they all put the focus on the individual as the driver of the plan. The individual’s hopes, dreams, abilities, and interests are prioritized and used to create an action plan. This approach is very much aligned with what we believe leads to an inclusive, independent life.
Through our years of working in the developmental services sector, however, we noticed a number of limitations to traditional person-directed planning:
- While the aim of the PDP was to be a living document, revisited and revised continually with changing life circumstances, PDPs often became stagnant. There was not always follow-up to determine whether outcomes had been achieved or if plans needed to change to become more effective.
- PDPs often reflected what parents or caregivers wanted for their loved ones rather than an individual’s true vision for their own life.
- There was a general lack of collaboration on care goals, specifically between paid (e.g., support workers) and non-paid (e.g., family members) caregivers in residential care settings. Despite having valuable input and wanting to play a meaningful role, families in these situations were often unintentionally excluded from the PDP
- Because traditional PDPs can only record so many details, they weren’t being used to their full potential in providing continuity of care during periods of transition. This is a key concern for aging parents
- Goals or interests identified on the PDP often did not correspond to the types of activities or services offered by the service provider agency.
How is LCO different?
The limitations that we identified in traditional person-directed planning helped us to create the blueprint for our new planning platform. We started to design a tool that would:
- Be intuitive, user-friendly, and easy to navigate to encourage repeated interaction with one’s plan.
- Allow people with a wide range of abilities to articulate their own needs.
- Encourage active engagement and collaboration across a support network in caring for an individual.
- Be a secure space to store and track the information needed to provide continuity of care, manage transitions, and ensure better outcomes
- Organize information in a way that could help agencies provide more relevant supports and programs for the people they serve
It was clear that, to accomplish all these things, we would need to build an online platform. But first we needed a person-directed-planning framework on which to base our design.
When we discovered the Charting the LifeCourse (CtLC) framework, we knew it was the best fit for our online platform. The CtLC framework was developed at the University of Missouri, Kansas City (UMKC) in partnership with families, advocates, and many national and state-level stakeholders. It is driven by the belief that “all people have the right to live, love, work, play, and pursue their life aspirations.”
We chose to base LCO’s planning tools on this framework because of how well it aligns with our own principles for person-directed planning. It takes an asset-based approach that places individuals in the broader context of their families and communities. It encourages high expectations, exploring one’s choices, working toward independence, and integrating multiple supports. The CtLC framework also includes visual and versatile problem-solving and planning tools that make it easier for individuals to be involved and articulate their needs.
We consulted with the UMKC community to ensure that our design was true to the CtLC framework but also took advantage of the flexibility that an online platform allows. To make it user-friendly, engaging, and as self-guided as possible, we incorporated simple language, intentional color schemes, detailed instruction and videos, and intuitive design.
In addition to digitizing the CtLC planning tools, we built the LCO Dashboard. The Dashboard is the core of LifeCourseOnline and what distinguishes it most from other planning tools. Users can collaborate here with the network of support they’ve built to make their plans a reality. The dashboard makes transition and continuity of care easier by allowing the storage and tracking of information to happen in one, secure place. Significant events in the individual’s life, important goals, frequented places, detailed schedules, team member contact information, and notes about programming or individuals’ preferences are all captured in the dashboard, readily accessible by anyone who has been granted access. Agencies and families can share information, coordinate, and communicate in real time, ensuring that everyone is involved and focused on the same goals.
The Future of LCO
We believe that LifeCourseOnline, and the program that surrounds it, is the next step in the evolution of person-directed planning. It helps individuals to achieve their self-determination goals, families to maximize their capacity to support their loved ones, and organizations to better identify and meet the needs of those they serve. LCO’s value for people with supported living needs of all kinds, including seniors, at-risk youth, and youth in transition also becomes clearer to us every day. The experience of a LifeCourseOnline member will only become richer as we continue to consult with our community of advocates, families, and organizations on their needs for LifeCourseOnline and to develop new features and improvement in response to these needs.
We are very proud of what we have created, but this is only the beginning. As we say in LifeCourseOnline, planning is an iterative process! We have so much more on the horizon for LCO, and we’re grateful to those who have put their trust in us to carry out this vision.
LifeCourseOnline is a life-planning platform and community where you can articulate your needs, pursue your goals, coordinate practical care, and connect with your network of support on a regular basis.
To learn more, head over to our main site at lifecourseonline.com