Autism-Related Problems With Transitions

Transitions are particularly challenging for kids with autism, and their reactions can be extreme. They may feel the need for sameness and routine is a way of adapting to a world that can be overwhelming and confusing. Deviation from the routine can feel very uncomfortable, even distressing, and they may refuse to transition, or engage in disruptive behavior such as having a tantrum.

Maintaining structured routines may help children with autism, especially for everyday transitions that are challenging, like bedtime or school mornings. It may also be helpful to provide children visual schedules of their routines as well as provide warnings (countdowns to the next activity) before upcoming transitions. It’s important to note that these general strategies, while helpful, may not be sufficient for all children with autism.

Rewarding kids when they handle a transition particularly well can also be an effective strategy. A reward could be as simple as labeled praise (for example, saying, “I really like how you stopped playing on the iPad when I told you it was time to get dressed. Good job!” Children can also be motivated by rewards like stickers or points that work up to bigger rewards, like more screen time or a favorite food. Access to a child’s special interests can also be a reward.

Read more about transitions here.