While most children struggle with transitions at some point in their lives, children with autism can find it particularly difficult to move from one activity to another. They may become visibly agitated and overwhelmed, express feelings of sadness and anger, and some may erupt into a full-blown meltdown, especially when they are expected to transition from an activity they enjoy to something less desirable.
For ASD parents, these fits during transition times throughout the day can be more frequent. From something as common as the time to leave the park to simple day to day activities such as time to go eat dinner. While these transition strategies are written with autistic children in mind, these simple tricks can help all kids make it through their daily schedule changes smoothly.
1.- Observe and take notes:
Take a moment to figure out exactly why your child struggles with transitions. Observe his reactions over the course of 3-5 days and each time you see him becoming upset, write down all of the things that happen leading up to her outburst. Is he struggling to communicate with you? Is he overwhelmed with excitement? Are there any sensory stimuli – such as loud noises – preceding a change in activity that may be upsetting? Write it all down and see if you can find any consistencies.
2.- Be Clear and Communicate:
A transition always includes a starting and a finishing point. By clearly defining that ending point you are helping your child feel some control over their environment. A visual timer is an awesome tool to help your child see exactly when the activity will end.
3.- What’s Coming Next?
Visual Schedules are an awesome way to clearly communicate what is happening next. If your child can see what is coming up they can prepare instead of feeling like they are being abruptly pulled from whatever they are engaged in. By giving your child a visual representation of her day, you are empowering her by allowing her to look at the visual schedule and move from one activity to the next without prompting.
4.- Create a Chart:
A first/then chart is a visual representation of what you want your child to do now (FIRST) and what will come after (THEN), and the idea is to make the first task less desirable and to follow it up with some sort of reward. For example, if your child doesn’t enjoy practicing his/her letter writing, but loves painting, your first/then chart might look like this:
- First: practice writing letters for 5 minutes
- Then: painting for 10 minutes
- You can make it extra motivating by awarding a sticker/token for each minute of letter writing practice!
5.- Coping Tools:
When it comes to transitioning between environments, sometimes bringing a familiar lovey or favorite toy with can help ease some of the “new environment” stress. Consider offering the object a couple of minutes before a transition occurs and then gradually remove it as your child settles into the next activity. Having it within eye-shot during challenging activities may also be helpful.
*WSCC Note: Be patient and remember that creating habits requires patience, breathe and reward yourself and your child for your effort. Remember it will all be worth it!
At World Stem Cell Clinic, we believe that that having an informed parent –in an effort to empower him and his family– is the only way to for us to deliver optimal healthcare. Visit our website to find out more about our services and let us be part of your journey. You are not alone!