Assisting children with transitions from one activity to the next can prove to be difficult, especially for those on the autism spectrum. Solstice Behavioral Health & Consulting has come up with a few strategies and skills to help families teach their child with ASD how to go from one activity to the next. Many families have reported that these strategies have improved communication between their children, their spouses, and other family members.
Why Is Transitioning Between Activities Difficult for Children with Autism?
Transitioning kids with autism to new activities can be a struggle. People with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can become very preoccupied and engrossed in whatever they are doing, making it difficult for them to switch to something else. It can be even harder for children with autism to transition away from something they enjoy, particularly if they are expected to move on to something they don’t like.
At times, children with autism may struggle to shift between activities due to a lack of comprehension of what is expected of them or a deficiency in their listening abilities. Even beginning the task may be too difficult because it requires a great deal of effort. It is also possible that the activity they must move on to is too complex for them, making the transition seem impossible as they do not possess the necessary skills.
Examples of Transitioning in Daily Life
Being able to transition between activities is a part of every person’s daily life in small and significant ways. Children also need to be able to transition between activities throughout their day, including when they need to:
- Stop playing to bathe
- Leave the house and get on the school bus
- Stop what they are doing and go to the table for dinner
- Walk from the classroom to the gym or outside for recess at school
- Stop playing video games and go to bed
- Move from breakfast to brushing their teeth
These transitions may seem trivial for parents and other adults. However, if you take a moment to think about the difficult transitions in your daily life and the skills you’ve learned to smoothly transition, you can see the struggles you’ve already learned to overcome.
A few examples of how adults need to be able to transition between activities include:
- Going from home to work. (What attention differences are required? Is there a difference in skills between home and work?)
- Relaxing on the couch to doing chores.
- Transitioning from making dinner & cleaning to family time.
Adults may take for granted the skills they have developed over the years. Children require your support to build those skills for themselves and have opportunities to practice them at home.
How to Help Kids with Autism Transition Between Activities
As a parent or caregiver of a child with autism, it is important to consider the issues your child may have transitioning between activities. Take note of any specific activities and behaviors your child shows that could be indicative of difficulty adjusting. To assist with easing their transition from one activity to the next, devise a plan that will both prevent any challenging behaviors and facilitate the process. Here are some useful tips for making transitions smoother.
1. Remove the Hassle
If your child has difficulty transitioning from one activity to another, such as getting out of bed in the morning or transitioning from playtime to getting ready for school, consider offering them tips to make the transition easier. Ensure their clothes, school supplies, shoes, and anything else they may need are ready the night before to make getting ready for school less overwhelming.
2. Give Warnings/Signals
If your child needs to stop playing video games and come to dinner with the family, give them a gentle warning before the transition to help them prepare. Let them know there are 20 minutes remaining before dinner time and provide additional warnings after 10 and 5 minutes. It may be tough at first, as kids often don’t plan ahead in their game, but with your help and consistency, they can learn to end their games on time. You can even use a visual timer to serve as a reminder of how much time is left. Don’t let them extend their time or they may continue to test you to see how much extra time they can get.
3. Adapt Your Child’s Activity Level
If you are attentive to your child’s behavior and the things they find difficult, you may notice that transitioning from one activity to another is a challenge, particularly when they are involved in something they enjoy. For example, if they are used to watching television in the morning, children may have difficulty transitioning away from that and to the task of getting ready. To help with this, you could make a rule that electronics (television, video games, etc.) are not allowed before activities that are usually difficult to transition to.
Additionally, this could be relevant during homework time. It is important to set boundaries when it comes to technology and homework. Establishing a rule that your child must complete their homework before they play any video games can help them make the switch from electronics to homework more easily. Monitor your child to find out what works best for them and keep your expectations consistent. Alternating between allowing and restricting electronics can cause confusion, as well as difficult behavior.
Transitioning between activities is possible for every child, but maybe not in the same way. We encourage parents to try different strategies to practice transitioning with their children. Together with your child, you can customize your approach to reinforce their success. For more tips and opportunities for your children to develop life skills, call (203) 900-4720 to speak to an ABA therapy expert with years of success teaching children with ASD.