Improving Transitions in Pediatric ABA Therapy

For almost any child, being told it’s time to put away your toys and transition to homework can be disappointing and discouraging. However, for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), improving transitions can be particularly challenging. If you work with children with autism or have a child with autism, you’ve likely experienced a meltdown or two when you’ve told your child that it’s time to move on from their current activity. However, it is possible to make transitions easier with practice. Parents can practice these transition strategies at home, teachers can use them in the classroom, and therapists can use them as a part of applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy.

Why are transitions difficult for children with autism spectrum disorder?
Every child learns and processes differently, so transitions can be challenging for a variety of reasons, including sensory processing issues. Many children on the spectrum struggle with sensory processing issues, so transitioning from one environment or activity to another can be extremely unsettling. If a child with autism is currently engaged with an activity in their area of high interest, a teacher asking them to transition to a new activity can be frustrating, which can cause a meltdown.

How to help with transitions in ABA therapy
There are many strategies you can use with children on the spectrum to practice transitions during ABA therapy. Applied behavior analysis focuses on behavior and how it is impacted by different environments, so an ABA therapist can help children with autism develop strategies to make switching between activities a bit easier.

Visual supports: Children who are on the autism spectrum often benefit from visual supports, which can be applied to working on transitions. This might include a visual schedule or a visual timer. These can help to provide a concrete time limit for the activity.

‘First, Then’ schedules: You can use a ‘First, Then’ schedule to set an expectation for the order of activities. For example, first you will play with Thomas the Train, then you will have your snack.

Transition toys: Some children feel more comfortable if they can carry a toy between activities when they are asked to transition.

As with any tool, consistency is extremely important for children on the spectrum. For example, if you start using a visual timer and find this method to be successful, then continuing to use this same tool for all transitions to provide structure and reinforce the behavior. There are many other ways to practice transitions in ABA therapy, and every child is different, so trying a few different strategies might be necessary before finding the right one.

Do you think your child could benefit from practicing transitions in ABA therapy?
Are you interested in ABA in Chicago? Contact us or call (773) 630-4400 to learn more about the range of services we provide for children who are on the autism spectrum at Chicago ABA Therapy, including applied behavior analysis therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology.

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Improving Transitions