The Future is Now

Primary Practice

Psychoeducational future planning intervention co-led by peer facilitators


The Future is Now was developed by the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Aging with Developmental Disabilities at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The program is designed to assist aging family caregivers and adults with developmental disabilities to plan for the future when aging caregivers pass away or are no longer able to provide care.

Workshops include family members as well as their relatives with developmental disabilities. In addition to primary caregivers, siblings of individuals with DD and other family members who may take on future caregiving roles are encouraged to participate. Families meet jointly at the beginning and end of each session then break out into separate groups. Training materials for individuals with DD use simple language, pictures, role playing, and other accommodations to assist with communication and understanding.

Workshops consists of five 2.5-hour sessions, including breakout sessions for family members and individuals with DD. Each group is co-facilitated by a professional and a peer mentor (family members who have done future planning and self-advocates with DD). Curriculum content includes dreams for the future; expanding support networks; future living arrangements; work, education, and retirement; and safeguards to ensure their future plan will be implemented. Families also receive training in legal and financial aspects of planning. Families set individual planning goals and work towards achieving them.

Target Population(s)

Caregivers of adults with developmental disabilities


The program has been implemented at multiple locations across the US and internationally in Switzerland and Ireland.


The goal of the training is to decrease stress of family caregivers, increase self-determination and involvement of individuals with I/DD in future planning, and contribute to families taking concrete future planning activities (i.e. letter of intent, residential planning, legal financial planning).

Evidence of Outcomes

Evidence-Informed Practice
Heller & Caldwell (2006) conducted a evaluation of the program using an experimental design with 48 families. Families were randomly assigned to control and intervention groups based on their service agency. Pre-test and 12-month follow up surveys were completed. A lag design was used so that all families were ultimately provided an opportunity to receive the training. Findings supported decreased caregiver burden and increased opportunities for daily choice making of the individuals with developmental disabilities. The intervention also increased families’ knowledge and confidence in their ability to engage in future planning, secure special needs trusts, and take action on residential planning.

Additional Information

DeBrine, E., Caldwell, J., Factor, A., Heller, T., Keiling, K., & Kramer, J. (2009). The future is now: A future planning training curriculum for families and their adult relatives with developmental disabilities (Rev. 2nd Ed.). Chicago: Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Aging with Developmental Disabilities, University of Illinois at Chicago.


Heller, T., & Caldwell, J. (2006). Supporting aging caregivers and adults with developmental disabilities in future planning. Mental Retardation, 44(3), 189-202.