My son is very anxious. I think even if he hadn’t been born with autism this would have been the case, as his family tree is ripe with worriers, shall we say. All that aside, over the years I’ve learned that change is hard for him, harder than for most kids. He needs a little more time to process things than other children due to some sensory processing issues very conducive with autism,  and transitioning from one activity to another has been challenging for him. He, and his father and I, have learned over the years how to help him in this regard, to make change less stressful, less unknown.

Parents, has you experienced difficulty with transitions with your special needs children? This week is the return to routine, with many children going back to school after Spring Break and parents going back to work.  It can be challenging to get used to school structure after a week of being at home with a different kind of structure or return. Here are some tools that have helped me help my son with transitions, back to school being one of them:

 4 Ways to Help Special Needs Kids With Transitions:

1)    Talking prep work: Talk to your child about what will be happening, one, two or a few hours in advance, depending how much notice they need before they move from one activity to another. My son used to need to know two days in advance, now one day to a few hours is fine. Of course, it also depends what we are talking about. Spring Break, we plan a few days in advance. A big family wedding and what will happen I read up to two to three weeks in advance.

2)    Use a Social Story: Depending on how well your child communicates, a short story written in simple language describing what will be occurring.  It demystifies some of the unknown and helps them have a concrete grasp of what to expect. You laminate it, or put it in a folder if they need to carry it with them, and they have the events of the day in schedule form. I put it up on the fridge to read too.

3)    Pictograms: Yes, even stick figures work! I’m no Renoir or any kind of artist when it comes to drawing, but little diagrams to go with the story can help them have a visual to go with the story if you want to join them together. You can also print out some great ones on sites like Pinterest and use this as a tool alone too.

4)    Tool box to handle anxiety: I have learned that giving my son tools to cope with his anxiety, tools that he chooses, is what sometimes works best too. He chose a little “kit” in three rooms in our home, squeeze toys, thera-putty, stuffed animals or figurines, his trampoline, fitness ball or rocking chair. I will gently remind him to use it when he’s feeling stressed and to use it to best articulate his feelings to himself and to me.

I think as long as you tell your child that being anxious about change is part of being human and give them tools to learn to handle it, you and they will be able to get through many stressful transitions together successfully.

– Joanne Giacomini 

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