When I started my Embracing Autism Accelerator program, I found myself answering question after question the same way…
“That’s not a sensory struggle, that’s a transition struggle“
“That’s not a demand problem, that’s a transition problem“
“That’s not a communication struggle, that’s a transition struggle“
So if you’ve been struggling to help your Autistic child with transitions, you aren’t alone, friend!
Navigating transitions is one of the hardest parts of parenting Autistic kids because they can cause so much anxiety and stress.
So if transitions lead your child straight to meltdown mode, you’ve got to check out this one quick tip to help your Autistic child through transitions!
Pssst… I’m hosting an exclusive workshop: Handle Transitions Like a Pro only for my clients in Embracing Autism Accelerator… Click here to apply and join us in time for the workshop!
One Quick Tip to Help Your Autistic Child Handle Transitions
Before we dive in, I want to take a second to explain what transitions are and why they’re so flipping hard for Autistic kids.
Transitions are basically any time your Autistic child has to switch from one activity (or even state of being) to another.
Going from home to school? Transition.
Going from eating lunch to playing? Transition.
Going from winter to spring? Transition.
It’s pretty easy to see that transitions happen absolutely all the time.
But transitions are SUPER hard for Autistic kids for quite a few different reasons.
- Autistics tend to hyperfocus on what they’re doing, and transitions don’t account for our hyperfocus
- Transitions often happen quickly and without warning, so Autistics aren’t typically ready for them
- When we transition from one activity to another, we’re transitioning from something we KNOW to something we DON’T KNOW, and that can cause anxiety
And those are just a few reasons that transitions are so difficult… So let’s dive into how you can use one quick tip to make transitions easier for your Autistic child.
How to Make Transitions Easier for Your Autistic Child
For this post, I want to focus on one of the most common reasons that Autistic kids struggle with transitions: not knowing what to expect.
Because the truth is, most of our kids live in the moment and don’t have the ability to forward plan what will happen after they move from one activity to another.
If you’re going to the grocery store, they have no idea what happens after the grocery store, and they might even feel like the grocery store will (quite literally) take forever.
And the same is true for meals, school, getting dressed, and any other transition.
We ask our kids to stop doing whatever they’re doing and do something else without giving them any idea what will happen next and what it will look like.
And that just doesn’t work.
So my #1 quick tip to help your Autistic child navigate transitions is to give them a clear next step.
This basically means that instead of giving our kid a transition like: “time to get in the car!”, we give them a transition with a clear next step like: “time to get in the car, that way we can get to the park!”
How a Next Step Helps With Transitions
This simple strategy of choosing a next step can help with transitions by showing your child that there is, in fact, a next step after this transition.
By sharing a next step, we are helping our children forward think and plan out what happens after the transition.
Can you imagine stopping what you’re doing right now and switching to a new task or activity (that someone else chose for you) and then having absolutely no idea what would happen next?
I mean, will you:
- go back to the activity you were doing (reading this post)?
- do something entirely different like get a snack?
- be asked to do another task you don’t even want to do?
- have to do something you absolutely hate like the icky squishy dishes?
The possibilities really are endless if we don’t have a clear next step.
So giving that clear next step helps our kids process the full transition, including what happens next, so that they know what to expect and experience less anxiety.
How to Choose the Right Next Step
So we know that giving your child a next step will help them through a transition, but the reality is that not all next steps are created equal.
You should keep a few things in mind when sharing the next step.
- Be specific about what the next step is.
- Choose a next step your child actually wants to do.
- Make sure the next step happens directly after the transition.
- Communicate the next step clearly.
- Remember the next step isn’t dependent on getting through the transition easily.
So next time you are preparing your child for a transition, you can make it easier by giving them a next step.
But if you’re like most of my clients, you might still have plenty of questions about how to navigate transitions. Questions like…
- How do we deal with the anticipation of transitions? They’re worse than the transitions themselves!
- What can I do to get my kid in the car without a meltdown? That seems to be their biggest trigger…
- How do I manage my own emotions when the transitions are taking FOREVER and I really need us to just get stuff done?
- What do I do if my kid needs to know exactly when they can get back to their activity, but then they freak out because it’ll take too long?
- How do I handle it when I give all the warnings in the world, but my kid still flat out refuses to transition?
And that’s exactly why I’ve put together a brand new workshop exclusively for my Embracing Autism Accelerator Clients: Handle Transitions Like a Pro.
Plus, when you apply for the Accelerator, you get access to a FREE exclusive private training: 3 Steps to Become the Parent-Advocate Your Child Needs.
If you loved this post, you might also enjoy…
- The Right and Wrong Way to Use First/Then Charts
- 5 Myths About Autistic Children & Aggressive Meltdowns Debunked
- The (Pretty Big) Problem With Teaching Size of Problem
- 3 Vital Steps to Take Before Addressing Your Autistic Child’s Behavior
- Why It’s Totally Okay to Suck at Consistency
- 3 Steps to Navigate Boundaries With Your Autistic Child