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Transition strategies for autism

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    Changing locations, making the switch from one activity to another or even tolerating change in the usual routine are all examples of the need to make a transition. Ordinarily we take such transitions in our stride however children who have difficulty processing sensory information may find these to be overwhelming.

    Strategies to Help

    • Allow plenty of time for transitions.
    • Try to make the transition more predictable. Visual time tables or verbal prompts may help.
    • Help your child prepare by giving reminders of how much time they have before a change will occur. Sand timers can be a useful tool at these times.
    • Try to structure the routine so that difficult or demanding transitions are preceded by activities that have a calming influence and help to organise their sensory system.
    • Have radios and TVs turned off to eliminate additional stimulation to the child’s sensory system, unless specific types of music help your child feel calm and focused.
    • Encourage use of deep relaxing breaths.
    • Try to provide calming proprioceptive and vestibular input to help with self-regulation. This could be hopping, jumping etc to next destination or participating in heavy work (see information on proprioception for more information).
    • Encourage as much participation from the child as possible during the transition e.g. include the child in finding the resources needed, asking the child to open the doors, getting the child to carry materials needed.
    • Try to make transitions fun with fun steps to follow, e.g. hopping to the car.
    • Oral input prior or during transitions may help your child feel calm (see information on oral motor input).
    • Use of fiddle toys or a sensory bag to take out with you to help your child self-regulate (see tactile information sheet).
    • Use of den space prior to change as calming space, having sensory toys inside this may be of additional benefit. A freestanding dome tent will provide a place for over stimulated or fearful children to withdraw to for a short period of time. It can also be used for more focused activities such as home work.

    Children with ASD may struggle with any kind of change, whether that be a simple day-to-day event such as taking a different mode of transport to school, or bigger changes such as moving house. There are ways to make this process easier and less stressful for your child.

    If your child is struggling with change and you’re seeking further advice, please get in touch.

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