TASH2 and person-centered work grew up together, taking shape in the late 1970’s, growing in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and adapting to the changes in the political-economic environment and shifts in system demands in the new century. Person-centered work emerges from a network of people and associations (Lyle O’Brien and O’Brien, 2002) and person-centered planning, its most common form, has grown to include many different approaches and serve multiple purposes (O’Brien, 2014). The network includes people like me who have contributed to some of the common practices identified with person- centered work and have made good use of their involvement in TASH through their shared history (I joined The American Association for the Education of the Severely and Profoundly Handicapped in 1976). In this chapter I want to describe person-centered work as I understand it, reflect on what TASH has given me as a practitioner and the organizational qualities that made those gifts possible and identify a vulnerability that I think person-centered work and TASH share in the current environment.
As I understand it, person-centered work is a way to co-create the means for a person to live a life that they and the people who love them have good reasons to value. Person-centered work takes three forms. Person-centered planning facilitates a person and their allies to discern the person’s purposes, gifts and capacities and identify and coordinate access to the opportunities and supports necessary to show up in community life as a valued friend and a contributing citizen. Person-centered direct support develops and sustains respectful and productive relationships with personal assistants who align their capacities with the person’s chosen path to contributing citizenship. Person-centered design orchestrates available resources and constraints at the personal, organizational and system levels to reliably offer the assistance and support a person requires to show up in community life as a contributing citizen. Multiple resources make it possible to show up as a contributing citizen and all may be encompassed in each level of person- centered work: friends and allies, a secure home, an adequate income, a real job, a rich leisure life, membership in associations, wellness, connections to sources of meaning, chances and supports to learn and grow, technology that amplifies personal capacities.