Collaboration for adulthood is KEY; the entire team needs to AGREE (part “B”)

Part 2(B) of  “22at20, Deconstructed.” Over the next 3 weeks we will address each of the key takeaways that we discuss during our presentation; collaboration, early planning, creative visions. We hope you are able to take these ideas and share them with your team members, and create your own successful transition!

In the last post we talked about early planning.  The second part of this post is about collaboration, another key element to this successful transition story.

It’s pretty clear now, 2 years later, that the early part of the “early planning” stage was the easy part.  Collaboration doesn’t happen overnight, even with the most committed team.  Collaboration is about relationships, and building any kind of relationship takes time, practice, and patience.  It takes growing pains, the celebrate together as well as to lift each other up.

Most of all for this team, it took a concerted effort to leave territorialism and competition behind.  There are 2 agencies involved; one supporting Nicky residentially, one in the day program.  In the last post we talked about how we chose each of the programs based on their strengths.  If they hadn’t come to the table with that understanding, it could have been a disaster.  It was really important that we were all clear about expectations and roles.  Our SPED Director was key to defining roles and managing the conversations, making sure that everyone was really contributing based on their strengths and their role in Nicky’s life.

But everything about collaboration is such a balancing act.

At the same time, we were really hoping they would support each other in the different environments by providing and exchanging knowledge, as well as regular communication around Nicky.  It is CRITICAL that practices and techniques that are working with Nicky are applied across environments – when appropriate!  That’s another key; the “when appropriate” part.  There needs to be an understanding that not every technique will work or even be appropriate to both environments.  Here are some examples.

Nicky is a shirt ripper.  It’s been a constant battle to help him overcome this need, identify the function, etc.  At home they are going through far fewer shirts than at the program; why? – Nicky can hang out at home without a shirt on, so that’s one of their solutions.  No can do at the program.  So, there we are getting ready to have him start wearing a vest over his tshirts (something that has worked in past years).  That won’t be necessary at home.

Nicky most recently had to begin wearing a helmet due to severe head banging.  This is not a new behavior but has resulted in some serious injury recently.  At home, because fewer demands are placed on Nicky, he has more frequent breaks from the helmet – but, when it’s off, the caregivers stay within a few feet of him at all times.  At the day program, Nicky is doing a lot more traveling, many more demands, and the places he goes have more people around – this makes staying close to him both socially and practically difficult.  So, at day program the helmet stays on unless there is an emergency or Nicky is indicating pain or discomfort.

It’s these different levels and types of collaboration that are important, but again – they are difficult and require ongoing, transparent, thorough communication.  Sustainability, like in any relationship, takes work.  Both agencies and DDS have done a great job managing their roles.  It hasn’t always been easy, but the resources have been allocated to maintain it after DDS becomes the fiscal and programmatic decision maker.  That, my friends, is the “master key.”

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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