Many students, both with diagnosed disabilities and without, struggle with transition. We often see this in school when students start a new year and they are adjusting to a new situation or when they go home for a long holiday break and have to adjust back into the school routine. Sometime the anxiety and confusion caused by these times of transition can create challenging behaviors. These behaviors may seem defiant or disrespectful and once they occur in the school setting they must be addressed. This often leads to punishment that the student doesn’t understand or respond too.
In an effort to head off some challenging behaviors in the classroom or at home consider looking into transitional strategies to help during times when the students schedule will change.
1. Calendar-Many parents of Autistic students keep a calendar to review with their child every day. This calendar will have days that school will not be held as well as appointments or family events. They review it at the same time everyday. By making this calendar part of your daily routine, your child will get use to the pre-warning of change. (This works for ANY child who struggles with change.)
2. Visual Schedules- Some students require a visual schedule to be successful both at school and at home. The student would have a schedule of their day with pictures of each activity and as they go through activities they would remove the pictures. This is can go from home to school and can help with everyday transitions like, coming to school and going to lunch.
3. Timers- Some students need a pre-warning before they change activities. Especially activities they are working on independently. A timer can be of great use. Set the time and pre-warn the child that in 5 min* they will change activities. This also works well at home if you want to transition from computer, TV or outside time. (*The amount of pre-warning time may vary from kid to kid based on need.)
4. Count down– As students go home for long breaks, like Christmas, it is important for them to remember that they will come back to school. You can create a count down to monitor daily. This can be done on the computer or it can be part of you calendar. Also as something special, if your school would help, give Christmas cards to teachers to fill out. One for every day the child will be out of school. EX: If you are out for 14 days, then 14 different people will write a simple card. “Merry Christmas, hope you are having a great break. See you in 14 days.” The child will open a new card everyday and the cards will count down until the last card says “see you tomorrow”.
These are a few of the most common transitional strategies. If you have a student or a child who struggles with transition check into strategies that can help them be more successful. If you wait until after the transition then you may see an increase in challenging behaviors that can be hard to handle.
Check out these web sites for more ideas:
Moving right along!
Child Behavior Guide
Technology is everywhere! My two year old can work my phone as well as I can. If you have students in class or kids at home who are struggling with behavior, speech, communication, routine or social skills you may try using technology to teach them.
Click on the link to access a document containing apps for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. ASD Wheel These apps are good for any student struggling with any of the listed skills. You DO NOT have to be Autistic to benefit from these apps.
How it works: the inner ring describes a behavior, the next ring has common learning traits, the next has app categories and the outer ring has links to more information about specific apps in that category.
This is a cool tool that was passed along from Region 15 ESC.
When we talk about students who struggle academically we typically talk about the academic area of need, reading, math, oral expression. As they continue to struggle we may start looking at cognitive areas such as short-term and long-term memory. But as a teacher I was not aware of Executive Functioning and how it affected my students.
The National Center for Learning Disabilities defines Executive Functioning as “ a set of mental processes that helps connect past experience with present action.” We use Executive Functioning to perform tasks such as planning, organizing, strategizing, paying attention to and remembering details, and managing time and space.
These types of activities are needed for everyday life! This is a cognitive process that affects all areas of life from academics to social development.
Executive function allows us to:
- Make plans
- Keep track of time and finish work on time
- Keep track of more than one thing at once
- Meaningfully include past knowledge in discussions
- Evaluate ideas and reflect on our work
- Change our minds and make mid-course corrections while thinking, reading, and writing
- Ask for help or seek more information when we need it
- Engage in group dynamics
- Wait to speak until we’re called on
If you have students struggling with these areas you should consider some simple accommodations. A student does not have to be Special Ed, 504 or have any other label to receive these accommodations in the classroom and they may make a difference in their ability to learn. Through time some students can improve their Executive Functioning skills or learn to manage them through organizational strategies.
Strategies found at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.
- Take step-by-step approaches to work; rely on visual organizational aids.
- Use tools like time organizers, computers or watches with alarms.
- Prepare visual schedules and review them several times a day.
- Ask for written directions with oral instructions whenever possible.
- Plan and structure transition times and shifts in activities.
- Create checklists and “to do” lists, estimating how long tasks will take.
- Break long assignments into chunks and assign time frames for completing each chunk.
- Use visual calendars at to keep track of long-term assignments, due dates, chores, and activities.
- Use management software such as the Franklin Day Planner, Palm Pilot, or Lotus Organizer.
- Be sure to write the due date on top of each assignment.
Managing Space and Materials
- Organize work space.
- Minimize clutter.
- Consider having separate work areas with complete sets of supplies for different activities.
- Schedule a weekly time to clean and organize the work space.
- Make a checklist for getting through assignments. For example, a student’s checklist could include such items as: get out pencil and paper; put name on paper; put due date on paper; read directions; etc.
- Meet with a teacher or supervisor on a regular basis to review work; troubleshoot problems.
For more information check out these websites: