Hey guys, it’s Tamra. My friend Hope is a music GENIUS! She loves to sing, she loves to dance, and she can play a mean tune on the piano! 9 times out of 10 her poppin’ PINK headphones are around her neck or closeby. Music is life.

More than anything, Hope loves to DJ.  Her favorite thing to do is connect her iPad to our big speaker, and play her favorite songs aloud for everyone to listen and dance. (LifeOfTheParty is her middle name.)

Because music brings her so much joy, you can imagine the disappointment when it is time to transition to something new, when a friend wants to connect to it, or if the speaker is needed for big group activities. These are hard times.

I asked her if it was okay to share with you guys how we effectively problem solved this speaker situation together. She was completely cool with it and liked the idea of helping other people learn new strategies.

So I’m here to show you how solid collaboration, proactive problem solving, and visual supports can save the day!


Avoiding hard, harmful situations is something we do for ourselves on a daily basis. We choose to wear our seat belts in case of an accident. We choose to blow on our hot food so we don’t burn our mouths. So, similarly, ask yourself:  How can I help avoid a harmful situation for a person that I support?

The answer/steps you take will vary from person to person, but this concept of being proactive can effectively avoid the majority of problems before they even happen. It’s magic!


In this case, I know that Hope hates disconnecting from the speaker. She also hates to be rushed off, so requesting it 30 seconds before I need it is a no-go. It’s not enough time.  It feels easy to say “Hey, time to get off the speaker” but is it effective? Not so much. My proactive suggestion – A visual support.

Pictured below is the timer we use daily! Hope has a much easier time when I say “Hey girl, I’m going to set this timer for 10 minutes, DJ away, but when it goes off, we all need to use the speaker for class”

Not only have you explained why you need the speaker, but you’ve also provided some prep time AND a visual to aide your person in processing/timing. This method can also be used to help transition from preferred activities to other activities. Here’s an article surrounding the perks of using visual supports.



 It’s important to have a toolkit of strategies. If the hammer doesn’t work, you may need a drill. I don’t mean that in the sense of how much pressure you apply, but we believe that variety is the spice of life! No one plan is always guaranteed, so proactively (there’s that word again) plan your B to try if you need it.

Here’s an example — as many times as the timer (pictured above) has saved my relationship with Hope, there are times that Hope cares much more about Nicki Minaj- “Beez in the Trap” than the darn thing ringing when her 10 minutes is up. These moments could suck, or, they can turn into a collaborative, problem-solving opportunities!

Let’s talk more about this word collaborative.

If someone is having an issue and is in need of support to solve it, get them in on the problem solving! Life feels bad when people force their agendas on you, even if the intention is good. It can be invasive and imposing. It’s always okay (and best practice) to ask questions, instead of making assumptions. This may look like:

“How can I help?”  or “What can I do to support you?”

When you do this, you are automatically:

  1. Giving the person who is struggling the control and power they deserve to help solve their own problems.
  2. Assuming competence — that is, believing that the person with the issue has the capability of coming up with an acceptable solution.
  3. Helping a person advocate for themselves, in ways that they are best supported.
  4. Providing an opportunity to practice reasoning and complex problem-solving skills.


Taking time to listen is very important, and can even clue you in on the solution.  If you know this person really well, it’s cool to sprinkle your ideas on top of theirs, that’s what collaborating is all about, working together. In this case, Hope wanted a schedule for the speaker. She wanted it to have pink! She also wanted some of her favorite musicians featured. So, we created (another) visual support. Check out our planning process!


It’s been about two months in, and she’s rocking it. Hope reads her schedule every morning. Power struggles to help transition her off the speaker have been eliminated. If she is feeling frustrated, Hope looks for her schedule, and is reassured because she can see the next time she is able to get on. This is what she had to say about it after using it for while :


The visual not only acts as a reference point for Hope, but for everybody at Branches Day that supports her. It helps all of our staff to stay on the same page when helping her through tough times, and genuinely makes these transitions easier and faster.

I must warn you, the work does not stop once the visual is created. It is important to put visuals an accessible place. It is important to reference them often to keep it relevant. It is important to stick to the plan consistently in order to get the best use.

It’s also important to remember that just like the things that motivate you and I change, the same goes for people we support. What’s working now may not be the golden ticket forever, so keep your toolkit FULL!

The good news is that the strategies we used (proactive thinking to problem solve and collaboration) win every time, no matter the person or the solution. Teamwork definitely makes the dream work —in these cases Collaboration Wins!

Thanks for reading!