Transitioning from one activity to a less preferred one can be unpleasant for anyone. Whether we are getting out of bed to go to work or leaving a fun vacation, leaving our favorite things to complete necessary tasks is a normal part of life.
Many children have difficulty transitioning. This could be due to the demands associated with the upcoming activity, or preferences of some activities over others. Transitioning is an important skill for success and one of which many children with autism struggle. BCOTB recommends the following preventive strategies to help your child transition.
One: Create a visual activity schedule
Sometimes children with ASD have difficulty transitioning because events are unpredictable. Creating a visual activity schedule allows your child to see what will happen next without any surprises. If your child can tell time, it may help to include times of upcoming events in your visual schedule. If your child is more visual, use pictures and photographs to paint a clear picture. For older children or children who can write, creating the schedule independently and checking off items can be especially helpful and prepare for success in adulthood (Knight, Sartini, & Spriggs, 2015).
Two: Offer a promise reward before transitioning
Before instructing your child to complete a difficult transition, find a favorite item to offer your child as you make this request. For example, use a small piece of food or a favorite toy. Present this item to the child as you make your demand. You could say, “It is time to turn off your game” while holding out a piece of candy and give it to your child as he is following the demand to transition. If your child complies, offer the promise reward and praise! Over time, you can use the promise reward less and less before transitions.
If your child still has problem behavior during transitions despite using the strategies above, you can remove the promise reinforcer and still maintain the demand to transition using gentle physical guidance. Removing the demand to transition risks reinforcing problem behavior and will make future transitions more difficult.
Find and create opportunities throughout the day to practice transitioning. Keep a log of how often your child successfully transitions so you can see his or her progress.
If transitioning is an ongoing problem for your child, contact one of our analysts: 813-814-2000.
Resources: Knight, V., Sartini, E., & Spriggs, A. (2015). Evaluating visual activity schedules as evidence-based practice for individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 45, 157-178.