Transition refers, broadly, to any sort of shift in a student's day to day life. Traditionally, transition refers to starting preschool, primary school, high school and beyond. However, a transition can also refer to a change in teacher, classroom, and students in class.
The nature of autism spectrum disorder is such that transition can be extremely stressful, no matter what age or how big or small the change may be.
We need to consider all the changes and pre-warn the student. Many children with an ASD have a script in their minds for everything that happens in their day. With that in mind, it is very important with any change that we offer a script to explain any changes in advance. Script cues include sensory/environment, people, visuals, video, social scripts/photo books, photos and so on.
Sensory and environment scripts may include new sounds, movements and uniforms. For example, with secondary students, it is important that they get to experience a busy locker area as part of a transition. Oftentimes, staff may take them on a tour when no one is in the school.
It is important for students to meet different people who will be a part of the transition. Important people include their teacher, assistant, students will they know, who to go to for help and office staff.
It is helpful to provide students with visuals of their new environment. Visuals may include a map of the school with toilets, classroom, where to put bags, office, library, and so on.
Video and photos
Another helpful sensory cue is to provide a video of their new environment, especially if the student cannot make a physical trip to wherever the new environment may be. This could be a video of the new school, environment, and even the teachers they will meet. Videos are wonderful as students can play them over and over. Be sure that the shows the environment how it actually looks, meaning footage of a busy locker area, a playground full of students and other vital high-sensory aspects.
Photos can include the class teacher, important staff, toilets and bubblers.
Create social scripts or photo books that show the child information. Many students with Asperger's need 'reasons', such as:
- Why do I have to change teacher?
- Why do we have to move classrooms?
- Why can't I stay with my friends?
You can create social scripts that provide answers and explanations in regards to their change in environment. These are helpful as students can refer back to them.
Additional sensory and environment scripts
Other sensory and environment scripts include:
- Playground: going over routines, activities, equipment and games.
- Friends: Do they want friends? Who do they know already? What clubs can they join?
- Lunch routine practice using lunch box, container and drink bottle.
- Calendar: Use a calendar to show when their visits will be and they will start in the new class.
- Getting to school: Bus, walk or travel by car. Practice the routine, discuss what to do if late or it is raining. (Some students are best dropped off right on bell whereas others love morning activities in the playground).
- Calming strategies: Ensure the child knows where in the new environment they can go to calm or access their sensory tools.