Children who have been diagnosed with autism sometimes have to deal with anxiety when changes occur at home, school, or in a daily routine. This is because autism effects a certain part of the brain that deals with executive functioning. Executive functioning is the ability to change your mindset or transition from one task or place to another. This part of the brain also sends the message to wait. A child who struggles with transitioning often throws tantrums or meltdowns due to increased anxiety. Here are some helpful strategies to make transitions go smoother:
Timers: A timer gives a visual cue of how long the activity or routine has left before it is time to transition
Picture/Visual Schedule: A picture/visual schedule can be made for the school day or any routine the child has to complete. There should be an individual picture for each activity or step. You can place Velcro on the back so that it can be removed when the activity or step is complete.
Verbal Prompts: Verbal prompts can work with older children who understand the concept of time. An example could be, “Math time will end in 5 minutes, then it will be time for lunch.”
Natural Ending Times: Providing reminders that a task is going to have to end is important for the child to prepare for that transition to the next activity. An example would be, “When the classroom lesson is over, it is time for us to get ready for lunch.”
References: Zachry, A. (1970, January 01). Pediatric Occupational Therapy Tips. Retrieved from http://drzachryspedsottips.blogspot.com/search/label/Transitions