This time of year is full of change for a multitude of children. Whether they are transitioning into a new school year, daycare classroom, Sunday school classroom or just a new schedule at home those differences can be overwhelming for both the child and the parents/teachers who are there to help. So this week are going to focus on…
Transitions occur every day, all day long. Many people don’t even notice the transitions they make because they run so smoothly. However, for those with young children or children with special needs even the small transitions can be a BIG deal. So here are some suggestions and ideas on techniques to facilitate positive transitions both for small everyday tasks and also for those big events and life changes.
- Creating a transition object- Use a toy or favored object (blanket, stuffed animal, train, etc) that can be presented to the child to cue a transition between activities. Allow the child to carry it to the new activity and place it in a visible location. Once the activity is complete prompt the child to retrieve the object and use it to transition to the next location.
- Pre-Set Prior to Transition- Prior to the event (How far ahead depends on the child and the magnitude of the event. For small events 5 minutes is generally enough for others you may need to start days or weeks ahead of time.) give the child peace of mind by letting them know about up-coming changes including the who, what and where details.
- For a big change (such as changing classrooms, moving, vacation)- You will want to start weeks ahead letting them know they have "X many days" left and talking about the things to expect at the new room. You will want to smooth the way by taking them on a tour of the new location ahead of time and introducing them to the new teachers/people (this is why schools have open house!). You may also want to ease into it by having them attend a new location for a short period of time and increase it each day.
- For a medium change (such as a singular change in a schedule (i.e. doctors appointment, holiday) - You will want to start a few days to a week ahead of time. Mention it a few times each day reviewing the change, the people and the event. Then review well the night before.
- For a small change (such as transitioning between events in a regular day)- Depending on the child and the length of time in a given activity you may need to start between 5 minutes to 1 hour ahead of time. Let the child know that a transition is coming, what it will entail and who will be there to help them. If the child needs significant warning you will be pre-setting for the next transition while making the current transition. For example a teacher may be transitioning a child to a dramatic play center while saying “when dramatic play is done Ms. Jones will be here for speech.” You need to give the child regular gentle reminders “in 15 minutes dramatic play will end and Ms. Jones will be here.” How often depends on the child as well as the length of time in your activities. Examples of reminder schedule could include 30, 15, 10, 5, 3, 1 or 10, 5, 3, 2, 1.
- Object Schedules- This is for very young children or those that have very limited symbolic thinking (they don’t recognize a picture of a spoon is actually a spoon that they use to eat). It is the most complex schedule to create and use because you have to make or purchase an actual object as close as possible to those that a child uses regularly (i.e. a spoon for eating, a diaper for changing, a sock for changing close, a duck for bath, a piece of a blanket for bed). You present the object to the child a few minutes prior to helping them transition to the new activity.
- Photographic Schedules- This is for children who can recognize themselves and familiar objects, people or locations in a photograph. It takes a little time to set up but it much easier to store and use once it’s up and running. Initially it requires you to take a picture of the child in each of their regular activities. You can print and laminate the pictures or set them up on a technology device. Once you have all of the pictures you can review them with the child (most children love looking at pictures of themselves). Then each evening or morning you work with the child to “set up” the days schedule. This allows you to review any changes to the regular schedule. Then during the day you can have the child use the schedule as frequently as necessary (for some it means having the child take the picture from the schedule to the activity, for others a quick glance at the schedule is enough to cue a transition).
- Iconic Schedules- This is for a child that has some early symbolic skills (they can understand that a picture of a book means read). This is the easiest schedule to make because you can just go online or use magazines to clip pictures that can represent daily activities (i.e. a picture of a toothbrush for getting ready, a picture of a bagel for breakfast). Once created it is used the same way a photographic schedule is used.
Visual Schedules can be used to work on so many things from transitions, to increasing independence with routines and helping with organization and self awareness. In the future we will do a post entirely devoted to picture schedules!!
*Any of these techniques can be combined to create the necessary support for a child based on their unique situation*