Budget vs. Spending Plan in the Self-Determination Program

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For families and individuals with developmental disabilities, the Self-Determination Program offers newfound freedom and control over the services and supports they receive.

As you embark on your self-determination journey, it's essential to understand key concepts like budget and spending plan.

In this article,  we'll delve into the difference between these terms and their significance within the Self-Determination Program, providing you with valuable insights to navigate this transformative program.


Budget: A Closer Look

Your budget is a crucial component of the Self-Determination Program. It serves as a document that calculates how much your Regional Center would have spent on your services and supports over the next 12 months, based on the spending amount of the previous 12 months and any unmet needs.

You may be worried that you will need to have been a Regional Center client for a year before you can enroll in Self-Determination or that you can’t receive a larger budget than you had the previous year, but that’s not the case. If you have had RC services for a year or if you have new or unmet needs that weren't covered in a previous budget and are worried about getting those covered then you can get a budget for SDP. The calculation of this budget follows specific guidelines outlined by California law.

The Self-Determination Program aims to ensure cost neutrality. In simpler terms, it means that the amount spent on each participant should be equivalent to what the Regional Center would have allocated to spend in the traditional service system for the next 12 months.

This calculation is solely used to determine the total amount of dollars you will have available to spend during your first year in the Self-Determination Program.

Spending Plan: Making It Work for You

Once you have your budget amount, it's time to create your spending plan. Your spending plan is where you allocate your 12-month budget across the various services and supports you require. This allocation is guided by your Self-Determination Program person-centered plan (PCP) and your annual Regional Center Individualized Program Plan (IPP).

It's important to recognize that planning for an entire year can be challenging, as needs and circumstances may evolve. This is where the flexibility of the Self-Determination Program comes into play. With the support of your Regional Center  (and NeuroNav Navigator, if you choose to opt for our Ongoing Independent Facilitation service), you can modify your spending plan as needed throughout the year.

A NeuroNav Navigator, a trusted guide on your self-determination journey, can collaborate with you to transform your dreams and aspirations into service codes, ensuring that your budget is allocated correctly. We can assist you in navigating the complexities of the system, making adjustments to your spending plan whenever necessary.

The Role of Collaboration and Support

In the Self-Determination Program, collaboration is key. Your Regional Center and NeuroNav Navigator are valuable resources that can help you maximize the benefits of your budget and spending plan. By working together, you can ensure that your services and supports align with your goals and aspirations.

Remember, California’s Self-Determination Program is designed to empower you and your family. It allows you to have greater control and choice in shaping your life. Your budget and spending plan are essential tools that enable you to make decisions about the services and supports that best suit your unique needs.


As you navigate the Self-Determination Program, understanding the difference between budget and spending plan is vital. Your budget sets the framework by determining the total amount available for your services, while your spending plan allows you to allocate that budget based on your individual needs and preferences. With the support of your Regional Center (and NeuroNav Navigator, if you choose) you can fine-tune your spending plan and ensure that it aligns with your goals.

Embrace the opportunities that the Self-Determination Program offers, and remember that your budget and spending plan are flexible tools that can be adjusted as your needs evolve. By actively participating in the decision-making process and seeking guidance when needed, you can create a plan that truly reflects your aspirations. Enjoy the journey as you shape your own path toward a more self-directed and fulfilling life.

If you have any questions or require further assistance, sign-up for a free virtual consultation with a NeuroNav Self-Determination specialist. We're here to support you every step of the way. 

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