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Transition Strategies for Individuals with Autism/ADHD

Our daily lives require us to make several transitions from one activity to another. Moving from a preferred activity to a must-do activity is something most of us may struggle with. Individuals with developmental challenges may have a harder time with transitioning between activities or settings. This may be because of the uncertainty about what’s about to come. Getting them to move their attention away from an activity or object can also lead to problem behaviours. By using transition strategies, we can support individuals with ASD and ADHD to move from one location or activity to another without much difficulty.

Difficulties with Transitions

Individuals with ASD like predictability and function better when they know what to expect. They may also have trouble shifting their attention from an activity or object when their routine is disrupted. For those with ADHD, the difficulty may be in paying attention to less rewarding activities. This may cause them to avoid or delay transitions.

For example, a child who enjoys solving Rubik’s cube can get lost in the activity. They may be so engrossed in the cube that they lose track of time. Any attempt to get their focus away from the cube may be unwelcome and seen as a disturbance. 

There are different ways in which an individual expresses their difficulty with transitions. They can show resistance or engage in negotiation. Avoidance and meltdowns may also occur due to transition troubles. Such behaviours may be a way of expressing their emotions or delaying the transitions.

Benefits of Using Transition Strategies

Transition strategies are techniques that support individuals to shift their attention from one activity, setting, or object to another. We can use them prior to the transition, during, and/or after the transition. Here’s how transition strategies are of help:

  • Reducing the time taken to transition
  • Increasing independence in transitions with less reliance on prompting from other
  • Increasing positive and appropriate behaviour during transitions
  • Allowing children to participate in school activities with more ease
  • Increasing the self-confidence of children as they are less anxious about what’s next

Strategies for Positive Transitions

Here are a few beneficial strategies that support individuals in transitioning:

Visuals Schedules, Timers, and Cues
visual schedules
Add smileys or stickers to make the schedule exciting

Individuals with ASD may have auditory processing issues. This means that they have trouble in understanding verbal directions. Presenting instructions in visual form may help them comprehend what they are expected to do.

Individuals with developmental challenges may not pick up on cues that indicate the completion of an activity. Providing visual cues such as photographs of the upcoming activity will help them in understanding what they are doing next. For example, when we present a photo of the library to a child, they understand that they need to go to the library. 

Giving objects such as crayons to indicate art class can also help children in transitioning.

Visual schedules have also been proven to help with making the transition easier. They help individuals with ASD understand the sequence of events or activities. 

Regular Breaks

Providing breaks throughout the day so children get time to relax and process what’s going on is important. Sensory breaks allow children to gather their thoughts and regulate themselves. When their sensory needs are taken care of, children are less likely to be overwhelmed. Breaks also help children calm themselves resulting in positive behaviours.

Planning Transitions and Transition Times

Rushing a child through a transition will only make matters worse. So, it’s better to accommodate generous transition times in a child’s schedule so that they do not feel the pressure that comes with a sense of urgency.

Similarly, we can plan schedules such that there are as few transitions as possible. If we can have an individual continue to be in the same environment and have lunch delivered to them there, that reduces their stress about having to go to another location for lunch.

Moreover, children with anxiety issues may not feel comfortable in settings where there are loud noises or in environments where they may experience a sensory overload. Giving headphones, stress balls, or sensory toys may help them manage their sensory processing issues and make the transitions esier.

Transitions are inevitable and therefore individuals with ASD and ADHD may benefit from learning to deal with them. Transition strategies can help in making transitions less stressful, thereby allowing individuals to focus their mental energies on the task at hand. This, in turn, paves the way for self-dependence, which boost their self-esteem and encourages more participation in classroom, work, and in the society at large.



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