Over the years, life has provided me with many opportunities to experience difficulties that help me relate to my students with autism. My most recent opportunity has been dealing (or not dealing well) with life's transitions. As my daughter completes her final year in high school, and my son transfers to a different college, it reminds me of how difficult change can be for all of us. As I silently shout my new mantra,"I hate transitions!," I can envision so many of my little ones who have struggled with changes over the years, and the uncomfortable feeling uncertainty brings.
We can eliminate some of our children's anxiety by creating predictable structure, and routines, as well as, preparing them for possible changes. The following tips may help your child become better at handling transitions.
Until next time,
- A daily visual schedule may help your child know what will happen next, or what s/he needs to do next to complete a task. You can create a mini visual schedule by taking photos of your child completing the steps in a specific daily routine (i.e., getting ready for bed: Step1- take bath, Step 2- pajama's on, Step 3- read bedtime story, Step 4- lights out, Step 5- sleep).
- A. weekly calendar may help your child to "see" what is going to happen the next day or later in the week.
- A First/Then board (First: brush teeth/ Then: read a story) may help your child to transition from one task to the next
- Using a timer may help your child anticipate when a change will occur (i.e., When the bell rings, it's time to turn off the IPad.)
- Use flexible language such as, sometimes, maybe, might, etc. during predictable routines to begin to increase your child's flexibility.
- Use a symbol to visually indicate there will be a change in the plan or daily schedule. Begin with changes that you know won't bother your child. Talk about the changes that will occur in the schedule, but leave the visual cue there to remind your child (of the changes).
- Add something new. If your child is rigid or insists that things remain the same, try adding something new to each of his/her routines to increase his/her flexibility. Start with changes that would not upset your child. For example, Jadan doesn't mind his mom changing the books they read at bedtime or number of books she reads, however, he does becomes upset, if a different person tries to read to him. Perhaps, they could ADD the change that Dad sits with them during the story time, and eventually, takes turns reading some of the story.
- Help your child understand cues from his/her environment. For example, by having your child clean up when he is finished with an activity, he may learn to anticipate "a transition" when he sees others doing the same.
- Use the S.C.O.U.T. Plan to help your child cope with changes/transitions in the community.