Have you noticed your child whining, crying and throwing temper tantrums when you switch activities? Does that sound familiar? Those aforementioned behaviours are commonly triggered because many children struggle with transitions!
What are transitions?
Simply put, transitions are when your child needs to stop doing one activity and start on something else. Some examples of transitions include:
Keeping toys before meal time
Arriving at school (or any educational setting) from home
Switching off television
Bath time to bed time
Children do not find it easy transitioning between activities because they enjoy what they are doing. When absorbed in the activity, they do not want to stop. However, at certain times of the day, they need to move on and change activities. Here is how to make it easier for them – and you!
1) Create a routine – Provide a visual chart if needed Children with ASD often have greater difficulties with unstructured time than neurotypical kids. They also sometimes lack the skills to effectively communicate their needs to their caregiver. Hence, a visual chart may help them to articulate their desire to perform certain activities and provides a form of consistency, routine and structure. By having a visual representation of their schedule, it allows them to come to their own understanding of how the day will play out, and they may even be able to use these items to express their preferred activities. It could also curb their need to act out by teaching them to be calm and focused on the given task.
An example of a daily schedule routine chart:
A predictable routine will help your child accept change better when they know what is coming next. This can be done in both home and educational settings.
2) Be sensitive to timing of transitions
As transitions are part of every child’s day, timing them right can make the process easier to adapt and change. One way you can be sensitive to the child is to avoid quick changes in activities. Always give a warning about any change of activity coming up. This will allow them to be “emotionally ready for the next event”.
Example in educational setting Teacher: “Trevor, time to pack up in 10 seconds!” (Countdown from 10)
Example in home setting:
Caregiver: “Alice, you have 5 more minutes to play! Then it will be time to go to bed.”
Using a familiar music or timer can help to signal change much better for the young learners as it effectively indicates that the activity is ending soon.
3) Make transitions fun and rewarding!
Switching things up a little and making transitions a positive experience will go a long way! You can help your child ease into transitions with something that he/she likes or is happy about:
“Joel, can you march like a soldier to the car?” (school to home)
Playing I-Spy on the way to school (home to school)
“Tyler, can you fly like batman to the sink?” (playtime to brushing teeth)
Engaging in pretend play about what the child is doing next helps to make the process more bearable and fun!
Do not forget to praise your child when they handle the transitions well! Emphasise how good it is when you both work as a team. Provide little tangible rewards like stickers, snacks or longer playtime when they follow through. Once they get into the habit of seamlessly transitioning, you can slowly phase it out.
Transitions are a work in progress
The main goal of the preventive tips above is to help children understand adults’ expectations from transitions so that challenging behaviours are less likely to occur.
There are many ways that parents and teachers can help their child have an easier time transitioning and behave better. All it takes is a little experimentation to find out what works best for each child!
Written by Jermaine.