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What are Transition Strategies?

Transition strategies are techniques used to support children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) during changes or disruptions to activities, settings or routines. These techniques can be used before, during and after a transition, and can be presented verbally (such as telling your child what they need to do) or visually (such as showing your child a picture of where they are going).  

The strategies attempt to increase predictability for individuals on the autism spectrum and to create positive routines around transitions. This will help decrease the natural anxiety that comes with the changes of transitions and increase the predictability of the transition or what to expect when the time comes (Hume, 2008).  

Preparing your child for bigger transitions well in advance is important! Here are six transition strategies our team would recommend to help support you and your child:  

  1. Calendars can be used daily to count down the days until the transition activity (e.g., days until first day of summer camp, days until a move to a new home, days until family vacation). Even if your child does not understand months and days of a year, it can be a successful visual tool to see when an event is approaching.  
  1. Social narratives are stories designed to describe social situations that are confusing or challenging for children with ASD. They are usually written by adults from the child’s perspective. When writing a social narrative, it is important to take into consideration the child’s abilities and learning style, whether they should be pictures and text or just text. Social narratives describe social situations and identify the why, where, when, who, and what that might be involved (Smith Myles, Trautman & Schelvan, 2004). Try to read the transition story as much as you can with your child to prepare them for what to expect or find books at the library about your child’s specific transition topic. Autism Little Learners shares a variety of social narrative examples on their website
  1. Video priming are videos that show your child what to expect with their new transition, similar to social narratives. It is recommended to share the video with your child in advance and to let them watch it regularly. You can also show your child the video right before the transition occurs. There are a lot of videos about common transitions (e.g., starting a new school, going on a plane, moving homes) available online. Our Kinark Kreates videos are great examples of these and were developed to be free resources for you and your child.  
  1. Visual aids such as maps, planners, visual timetables or schedules can be helpful for children to navigate a new environment, such as a new school. Middle schools and high schools are often much bigger than elementary schools and frequent classroom changes are normal. Due to these changes, many children (with or without ASD) are afraid of getting lost and being late for class. These can help reassure children when they need it. Visit the Parent Resources section of our Kinark Kreates videos for helpful information on visual aids! 
  1. Providing choices closer to the transition can be a good way of involving your child in the change. In addition to other aids, providing choices allow for your child to feel like they have some control over the transition. Choices should be only things that are available and practical. For example, “Do you want to wear your blue shirt or red shirt to school?”; “Do you want a sandwich or pasta for lunch?”; “Do you want to wear your Transformer mask or your Paw Patrol mask?” 
  1. Rewards can be used when a transition goes well and to show your child they did a great job with the change. A reward can be as simple as verbally praising their hard work or giving them access to a special treat or activity they enjoy. This is a good way to show your child you are proud of how they dealt with that change.  

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1. Hume, Kara. (2008). Transition Time: Helping Individuals on the Autism Spectrum Move Successfully from One Activity to Another. The Reporter 13(2), 6-10. Retrieved July, 2019 from  

2. Smith Myles, B., Trautman, M. & Schelvan, R. (2004) The Hidden Curriculum: Practical Solutions for Understanding Unstated Rules in Social Situations. Shawnee Mission: Autism Asperger Publishing Company 

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