Take the pain out of transitions!

We know that in life, the only constant is change right? Sometimes even the smallest of changes is enough to throw us off our game and when you have a child with special needs, it can be even more challenging.  Here are some tips for helping kids move from one activity to another or transition in to or out of an event while keeping your cool. I will never forget being VERY pregnant and trying to get my 3-year-old out of the pool. She threw a tantrum unlike anything I’d ever seen before and I had to wade in (clothes and all) and pick her up to get her to leave – not my coolest moment!  

  1. Prepare ahead of time. Sometimes we expect children to know what the plan is without really giving them enough information. Give an overview of the plan before the event or activity. Using a visual support (such as a Social Story or simple checklist) can assist with understanding of what’s expected.
  2. Give warnings. Abrupt changes can cause confusion – provide cues as to when the transition will occur. A verbal 5-minute warning, use of a timer or first-then approach (“First eat your ice cream, then ride in the wagon to the car”) are some techniques to try.
  3. Have a transition object or activity. Moving from something preferred to non-preferred can be a challenge. Think of a transition object or activity as a buffer between the two. A favorite stuffed animal, book music or photo can help set your child at ease or help them to look forward to ‘what’s next’. Using an activity such as riding in a wagon or riding a scooter can also physically move the child to the next place.
  4. Use A SECRET strategy. Check out this method (Attention, Sensory & Speech, Emotion Regulation, Culture, Relationship, Environment, Task or Topic) by Dr. Lucy Jane Miller which can help you plan for the next time.
  5. Remember to STAR. Smile, Take a deep breath, and Relax. These actions send calming and feel good messages and chemicals to your brain. Check out this video for more instructions on this helpful tool.

For additional tips on transitions, check out this great article or give us a call at (216) 514-1600 and schedule some time with an occupational therapist for an individualized plan for your child. We know many of us have already started thinking about the transition from summer back to school – we’re not quite ready to go there yet, but we will have some specific tips on just that in an upcoming post!


Carol Gray Social Stories – https://carolgraysocialstories.com/
Indiana University Bloomington – https://www.iidc.indiana.edu/pages/transition-time-helping-individuals-on-the-autism-spectrum-move-successfully-from-one-activity-to-another
STAR Institute – https://www.spdstar.org/basic/june-2018-education-newsletter
Conscious Discipline – https://consciousdiscipline.com/videos/s-t-a-r-breathing-tool/

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