Children who have Autism often have trouble with transitions. A transition is just a fancy way of saying, going from one activity to the next, or one place to the next. Applied Behavioral Analyses (ABA) has plenty of tools in its toolbox to help your child overcome the meltdowns, or negative behaviors that occur after or during the transition.
This article talks about visual schedules…
Autistic children love routine and love knowing what’s going to happen next. Think about it this way:
A friend says they’re taking you away for the weekend. They want you to pack everything you need within 2 minutes so you can leave right away. If you don’t pack in time, you’re leaving any way and can’t gather what you need. You aren’t allowed to know the location, who is going to be there, or any clues to what you might need with you.
The scenario is a little exciting sure, but incredibly stressful. Do you pack jeans? Something formal? Hiking gear? Will you need soap? Will you need a towel? Can you gather your tools to be successful on this trip fast enough?
Springing a transition on an Autistic child is a lot like the above scenario. Without a schedule there is no walk-through, your child doesn’t know what to prepare for, what tools they might need from their coping toolbox, who might be there or how they’re expected to act socially. When a new activity is dropped on them out of nowhere, it’s akin to trying to pack a suitcase in 30 seconds flat…Oh and listen to what your parent tells you to do and do it right away! It is horribly overwhelming.
Knowing this, it’s a little wonder your child might be tantrumming, throwing their toys, or just plain sulking and refusing to go. After all, they probably don’t have the same tools an adult would, to navigate the situation.
A visual schedule is essentially pictures of all the locations your child will be visiting that day. Perhaps it’s different classes, or Grandma’s house. Whatever it is, take a picture and put it up on an hour by hour schedule and talk to your child about what you will be doing that day. Warn your child 30 minutes before you have a transition, and use the picture during a transition, to explain what is happening next. Once your child becomes familiar with the routine, and locations, things may get better. This is just a quick explanation, your ABA therapist can use these tools and more to help reduce your child’s anxiety.