Transitions are when children move from one activity to another. Whether a child is at home, out in the community or in school, there are multiple times when one activity ends and another one begins. Examples of everyday transitions are going from home to school, moving from playtime to lunch, having a bath and then going to bed. For some children these transitions can be extremely difficult for several reasons. They may not understand an activity has ended, they might not want to leave a preferred activity, or they may not want to transition to a nonpreferred activity. Often, some children have difficulties in understanding the verbal direction given by a parent or teacher. Difficulties in transitions throughout the day can impact a child’s independence.
Preparing a child before a transition is going to take place is a very beneficial strategy. Allowing enough time for the child to prepare for the transition and providing more significant cues can be more effective than simply providing a verbal instruction, such as ‘tidy up, its lunch time’.
Transition cues are used to support children with their typical routine but also to support them through changes in routines or disruptions in activities of activities. Transition cues can be presented verbally, auditorily, or visually. These cues increase predictability for children and create positive routines around transitions. These cues should be chosen to suit each individual child.
There are many different types of auditory cues. Bells and audible timers are commonly used to signal the end of an activity. These should be used to give a child a cue that an activity is about to end, at not just when the activity has ended. An example would be saying “2 minutes to tidy up” and then setting a timer for 2 minutes. Once the timer goes off the children will then start to tidy.
A great way to signal transitions is the use of transition songs. There are a number of songs to be found here. These cue children that an activity is about to end, and is also a fun way to get children to enjoy the transition.
Visual cues are very helpful because the children can “see” how much time remains in an activity before they will be expected to transition to a new location or event. When we say “5 minutes left” to a child, this can be confusing as it is an abstract term that many young children will not understand. Time-telling is a difficult skill to master, so using these prompts are often more confusing than helpful. Presenting information related to time visually can assist in making the concepts more meaningful. A Time timer displays a section of red indicating an allotted time. The red section disappears as the allotted time runs out.
Visual Schedule are another great way to assist children in being successful with transitioning. Visual schedules can allow individuals to view an upcoming activity, have a better understanding of the sequence of activities that will occur, and increase overall predictability. With visual schedules the child can see what is happening next, but also what is happening later in the day. If playtime is finished because snack is next, they can also see than once snack is finished it will be outside playtime.
A “First/Then” visually shows what activity the child is completing currently and what activity they will complete next. This may help an individual transition to a location that is not preferred if they are able to see that a preferred activity is coming next. A “First/Then” should be portable and move with the individual as they transition.
For more support in helping your child to transition between activities, you can contact us.