Transtion_Book.jpgAll individuals must change from one activity to another and from one setting to another throughout the day. Whether at home, school, or in the workplace, transitions naturally occur frequently and require individuals to stop an activity, move from one location to another, and begin something new. Students with ASD may have greater difficulty in shifting attention from one task to another or in changes of routine. This may be due to a greater need for predictability (Flannery & Horner,1994), challenges in understanding what activity will be coming next (Mesibov, Shea, & Schopler, 2005), or difficulty when a pattern of behavior is disrupted. A number of supports to assist individuals with ASD during transitions have been designed both to prepare individuals before the transition will occur and to support the individual during the transition. When transition strategies are used, individuals with ASD reduce the amount of transition time, increase appropriate behavior during transitions, rely less on adult prompting, and participate more successfully in school and community outings.

No Tech Tools and Strategies

  • The opportunity to practice the steps of the transition with a partner at low stress, quiet times can be very helpful. For instance, if changing classes is so hectic that a new high school student loses his or her way, practicing the route while others are in class can help prepare the student for the actual transition. The next step can be to arrange the timing so that he or she is near the end of the route and can see their destination before other students fill the hall. Every few days, as they get more familiar with the route, he or she can start a few seconds later.
  • A simple verbal cue is used to signal an upcoming transition (i.e., “Time for a bath now”, “Put your math away”, or “Come to the break room for birthday cake.")
  • Allow time for the individual with ASD to prepare for the transitions.
  • Maintain a sensory-friendly environment

Light Tech Tools and Strategies

There are a variety of light tech tools and strategies that can be used to assist a student with transitions. Many of these were already described in the Receptive Communication section. The single most important tool for transition is the daily visual schedule.
  • Activity Termination Signals - The use of Green-Yellow-Red cards (as described in Receptive Communication and Behavior) can be helpful in letting the student know that an activity that he likes, such as recess, or choice time, is coming to an end. Hand the student the green card at the beginning, yellow when there are only a few minutes remaining, and red when it is time to stop. It can also be used for a group by substituting colored cups instead of cards. The green cup may be set on top of the computer or table at the beginning of an activity. The yellow cup is put over the green cup as the end nears (when one to two minutes remain), and the red cup is placed on top of yellow, when the time is up.
  • Object Cues - For some individuals with ASD, it may be helpful for them to carry or be given an object that will signal the movement to a new activity. This signal may be any object that will cue the user to go to check his or her schedule to see what activity is going to occur next. Auditory or visual cues may also be helpful, such as a small bell jingling, turning off and on lights, and playing music to signal an upcoming activity.
  • Mini-schedules - Mini-schedules include the individual steps of a specific activity. A mini-schedule can be created to map out the specific steps of a transition. (They are described more fully in Receptive Communication.) For example, Lori had the habit of sitting on the floor under a table at the back of the room each time she returned from recess, lunch, or other activities outside of the classroom. A mini schedule was developed with the following steps:
    1. Walk quickly to the classroom.
    2. Sit in your desk chair.
    3. Look at the paper on your desk for your first activity.
    4. Wait for your teacher to give more instruction.
    As long as there was a paper on her desk, Lori was able to complete the steps.
  • White board - A small white board can be used to facilitate transitions “in the moment.” Write or represent what’s coming next, or “first/then,” or a count down to the transition time.
  • Universal “No” Symbols - This is a powerful visual reminder of things that will not occur today. It is described fully under Go_Board.jpgReceptive Communication.
  • Lightening Bolt/Change symbol - This is used to indicate a new or unusual event. It is described under Receptive Communication.
  • Go! Board - This picture schedule system from Enabling Devicesis quick and easy to use. Each picture or symbol is placed in an icon holder on the Go! Board. After the activity is completed, it is removed and placed in the box at the bottom of the board.

Mid Tech Tools and Strategies

Transitions may also be eased through the use of speech generating devices. Users may benefit from having an auditory as well as a visual cue of what is going to happen next during the day. A vision of increasing independence should always be the impetus for making more seamless transitions between activities.
  • Timers - Use of a timer (e.g., an egg timer, kitchen timer, or specially designed visual timer such as the Time Timer) can provide assistance to many students with ASD in providing much needed time constraints and structure for completing tasks. When given an unlimited amount of time, these students typically take an extended amount of time for task completion. However, caution should be taken in the use of a timer in that some individuals have become highly interested (distracted) in the amount of time that is ticking away on the timer, and thus become less attentive to completing the task.
  • WatchMinder - described in the Behavior section, this can be a useful tool for transitions as it will display up to 16 steps of a sequence.
  • Time Timer Watch- A watch that communicates elapsed time and could assist students with increasing independence when in transition.
  • Time Timer Watch Plus- Time Timer Watch Plus communicates elapsed time and has the capability to set a time of day alarm, set up to twelve hour timers with pre-alarms to increase independence in transition.

High Tech Tools and Strategies

Videotaping - Videotapes can be made of the steps of the transition. This allows the student to watch it many times if needed or desired.