Every child with autism will come across a period when he or she needs to transition to another school, another milestone in life, another house, etc. As a parent, preparing for this process early will make things easier on the entire family, not just your child with autism. In life, transitions are one of the most difficult things for an individual to cope with. Add autism into the picture and you can potentially face a very difficult situation if this is not handled properly.
Here are some simple tool that you can use to make transitions much smoother for your child with autism or other developmental disability:
1. Always use a Visual Schedule
A visual schedule with pictures or short sentences (if your child is able to read) about what your child’s day will look like can be a valuable tool for getting your child prepared for what is coming up throughout the day. You can go over your child’s schedule in the morning to discuss it with him or her and to provide comfort if there are areas of anxiety or discomfort.
2. Use Social Stories
Create a social story about transitions that may be happening in your child’s future. It is important to start reading these with your child a few weeks before the change happens. Keep them positive, upbeat and use real pictures of what the major items will look like (e.g. new house, new school) and also use real family pictures and pictures of your child. Kids love to see themselves in the stories!
3. Visit places of transition ahead of time (if possible)
If your child is transitioning to a new school or a new place, find out if you and your child can visit the facility ahead of time and meet a few people (maybe his or her aide, teacher or some of the other students). While visiting, some important places to point out to your child are: where he or she will eat lunch, where the bathrooms are and how to ask for the bathroom, fun places like gym or recess yard, etc. Just remember when you were a child and what you wished you had known ahead of time before going to a new place.
4. What if the transition is quick or happens before I can prepare for it?
If you are experiencing a situation in which you are not able to prepare your child ahead of time, try to pair the experience with something positive – can you listen to your child’s favorite music on the drive over? Can you reinforce the child in the moment for good behavior with one of his or her favorite treats? How about a promised McDonald’s trip after the event to provide positive reinforcement for his or her cooperation, coupled with a quick token economy chart set-up? (For every 15 minutes the child does not engage in problem behavior, he or she gets a token; when the board is complete, you both go to McDonald’s for a well-earned snack or lunch.
By no means is this a complete list. These are just some ideas to get you thinking about how you, as a family, can make transitions easier for your child and make transitions more of a positive experience for everyone involved.
As part of your preparation, teaching yourself simple applied behavior analysis strategies and techniques will allow you to be much better prepared to help your child with autism make a smooth transition.
About the Expert Contributor
Expert Name: Cindy Ring, MSW, LSW
Expert Title: MSW, LSW
Company Name: Step By Step Inc.
Company URL: www.stepbystepacademy.org
Short Bio: Cindy is a clinical administrative associate with Step By Step Inc. Her responsibilities include designing research studies, protocols and evaluation tools, data collection and analysis and writing and editing grants and reports. Cindy is a member of the National Psychology Honor Society and a licensed social worker. She holds an MSW in Social Work Administration from Ohio State University, a BS in Psychology from Wright State University and is currently pursuing a PhD in Forensic Psychology from Walden University.