5 Strategies to Help Students with Transitions

Posted by Bonnie Arwine, award winning author, and President of National Autism Resources on Feb 25th 2019

Transitioning can be difficult and stressful for people with autism spectrum disorders. Here are five techniques that can help to reduce anxiety and give a sense of predictability to transitions.

1. Create a Schedule

Create a schedule the student can refer to. This can be a simple written list of activities or a sequence of pictures or both. Schedules can prepare a student for a transition by allowing them to anticipate upcoming activities and understand the sequence of events that will occur. Using schedules can decrease transition time and lower anxiety and meltdowns.

2. Show Activities as Finished

Marking activities as finished naturally prepares the student for the next activity. If using a picture schedule have a finished pocket for the student to place the picture of the completed activity in. For routine schedules, laminate the schedule with a box next to each picture that the student can check off as complete. Or simply use a piece of paper and write out the schedule and allow the student to cross each item off as it is completed.

3. Use a Timer

Time is an abstract concept that can be difficult for autistic students to understand. Using a timer gives students a visual of how much time is left before a transition. It can also help to keep some kids on task for projects they don’t like, because they can see it has an end. Some timers, like the Time Timer give an additional visual of the countdown of time.

4. Make sure there is ample time for transitions.

Rushing to stay on schedule is stressful for anyone. Especially with new routines at school allow adequate time for autistic students to process the transition and move on to the next activity.

5. Give the student a transition item.

Sometimes carrying a familiar item during a transition can add a sense of continuity and comfort. Some students keep an object with them throughout the day. For others it’s helpful if they get the item after they have completed a project. Allowing the student to get the transition item may help prepare them to move on to the next activity.