Transitions Tip Sheet

A transition occurs when a child is required to change location, activity, environment or position. Transitions are often difficult for many children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Why are transitions difficult?

Transitions are often difficult for children with ASD.

  • Due to their neurological differences, children with ASD have a hard time maintaining and shifting attention.
  • It may take them longer to physically move themselves from one activity to another.
  • It may be difficult for them to understand the need to change activities.
  • It may be difficult for them to manage their own behaviour during the transition.

Anxiety is often associated with transitions.

  • Anxiety may be a by-product of resistance to change.
  • Many children experience anxiety over the possibility that they will not be able to complete a routine.
  • Anxiety many take many forms. The child may ask perseverative questions about upcoming events or engage in other stereotypical behaviours.

Transition Tips

  • Prepare for all transitions ahead of time. Give ample warnings (i.e. 5 minutes left, 2 minutes left, 1 minute left, time to switch).
  • Once children are at the next activity, they should not have to wait for “setup”; circle time should begin as soon as the children are seated.
  • Use a transitional object to help the child remain calm during the transition. It may be a calming toy (squeeze ball) or an item related to the next activity (paint brush to move to the paint centre).
  • Use transitional signals such as a sign, a noise or song. Eventually the child will learn to associate the signal with change and will understand that the signal means to stop what they are doing.
  • Use a visual schedule to indicate what will happen next.
  • Give one clear direction at a time.
  • Use a specific relaxation strategy.
  • Remain calm even when the transition appears chaotic.

Geneva Centre for Autism
112 Merton Street, Toronto, Ontario, M4S 2Z8
Tel: (416) 322-7877 – Toll Free: 1-866-Geneva-9 – Fax: (416) 322-5894

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