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Transitions are when a student moves from one activity to another in the classroom. Going from small group work time to large group work, lining up for lunch, going home and going to P.E. are all examples of transitions.
Transitions are commonly a time when children who experience Autism Spectrum Disorder can struggle. Wait time, uncertainty, and needing to go from preferred to non-preferred activities all contribute to this breakdown. Here are some tips for creating success with transitions during the school day.
Give ample warning for transitions: Use a visual timer and gently alert the child verbally about the upcoming transition.
Minimize wait time during transitions Hurry up and wait should not be the motto for your transitions. Waiting in line for example can exacerbate anxiety, frustration and uncertainty for students with autism.
Make the transition fun: For younger children find something fun to focus on as a form of distraction. Songs are easy and fun ways to transition with younger students. A familiar song will act as a natural cue if used consistently. You can make up your own tune or use common transition songs.
Use visual supports such as daily schedules: Provide a pictorial schedule of the daily schedule. Spend time reviewing the schedule in the morning. Create the schedule so each picture can be removed and given or shown to the student prior to and during the transition. Showing a picture of the next activity will serve as a visual “warning” or reminder of the upcoming transition.
Give the student a transition job: Being in charge of carrying the heavy class backpack commonly used for emergencies is a way to embed sensory needs for children with autism. Any weighted item should be discussed with the team (Occupational Therapist) and removed after 20 minutes.
Use a transition object to support transitions Bring the item needed for the next activity to the student so they have a tangible item to bring to the next center or activity. If they are transitioning from individual workbooks to playing a small group math game, have the student bring the dice over to the table to share with their friends.
Here is another idea:
“Allow the student to use materials related to special interests while completing non preferred activities to increase motivation to make a transition….If the student will be able to use dinosaur pencils at the writing center, then give the student a dinosaur pencil to hold during the transition to that center” -(Adapted from Behavior Support for Students with ASD, by Debra Leach)
Helping students with autism during transitions goes a long way in helping support inclusion. The more successful transitions are, the longer and more rewarding the school day will be for the child who has autism. Share your success and tips for transitions in the comments.