Backchaining the plans

One of the key takeaways from our presentation is that collaboration and planning are keys to success – that well before the last year of educational programming, team members can come to the table with agencies, DDS, and supporters of the individual to create a back-chain plan WITHOUT HAVING TO MAKE ANY COMMITMENTS AT THAT MOMENT.  If you can get everyone to come with the understanding that it’s just a conversation to get people thinking, removing the pressure to make commitments can make a big difference in response.

What does this mean?

When Nicky’s team got together to start talking about the vision we (his parents) wanted to create, we knew that there were many milestones we needed to reach before we could get to the end result.  So for each of those milestones, we started at the end and created a plan for getting there.  Everyone gave input.  Here’s an example:

We wanted Nicky out of his placement by the end of October.  So we started there and said “Nicky moves out on October 27th.”  That was our first statement.  That gave Nonotuck, the residential agency, the abillity to say “ok, we need to identify the Shared Living Provider and make sure they are fully trained.  Training (including diet needs, behavior management, community integration, and safe restraint techniques) will take one month.  That means it needs to be done by mid-October.  That means we need to have hired all support staff by late September so we can schedule the trainings.  We need to have identified the Shared Living Provider by end of August so that he/she can be trained, participate in the support staff hiring, have their home ready, etc.  That means we need to start searching for the provider now.”

HMEA, the day program agency, also looked at that and said “ok, we need to have the staff ready for Nicky by that date.  That means we need to have everyone trained by mid-October.  To be prepared for the training, we need to schedule the trainers and have a behavior plan ready to teach them.  That will take 5 weeks, so we need to identify who will be involved by early September.”

Because these conversations took place at the same table, all of a sudden the 2 agencies were talking about sharing the trainings across all participants.  HMEA offered to allow all residential staff to participate in their restraint training – eliminating duplication and costs AND ensuring that everyone was trained in the same techniques!  In looking at the calendars, they were able to make sure that where there were cross-trainings, there would be no conflicts.  The behavior specialists coordinated a regular meeting schedule right there.  They also worked out the beginnings of a behavior plan TOGETHER – eliminating the possibility of creating more work and potentially harming Nicky’s progress by having plans that were out-of-sync.

There are many more examples of backchaining that took place, but you get the idea.  This was extraordinary.

But like we said at the presentation, it’s time to make the extraordinary the ordinary.

About Cheryl Ryan Chan

Autism Community Thought Leader & Change Agent. Find me at, learn about what I do at or contact me at
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