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10 tips for supporting transition at home or out and about

Getting out of the house and into school, going from kinder to an appointment, going in the car to a friend’s house… these are all examples of everyday activities of the families and children we know. They are all also examples of (the sometimes dreaded!) transition times.

Whether it be a small transition – such as from in front of the TV to the dinner table – or a big change – such as going on a Gold Coast holiday, any change in activity or location for a child can pose a challenge for our kids with developmental differences or anxiety.

It’s not always easy (in fact, it rarely is!), but here are 10 tips that may help your child achieve successful transitions:

  1. Give your child plenty of time: The rush of day to day life means this is not always possible. As much as you can, try and plan for 10 minutes more than you need to get somewhere or do something.
  2. Give a verbal pre-warning (e.g. “It’s nearly time for ________”).
  3. Keep your language short and simple
  4. Get in front of your child, face to face, and minimise background noise before telling them what’s about to happen.
  5. Use a visual schedule – have a series of pictures (or a written list) on the wall to show what is happening that day. Start the pictures at the top, and go down the wall (e.g. Monday: car, school, Grandma’s house, home, dinner, bed).
  6. Make a symbol for your visual schedule that means “Change of Plan”:  Some people use a star or an exclamation mark. Tell your child of the change in plan and put this symbol on the board where the change is happening (e.g. Monday: car, school, *Change of Plan* – friend’s house, home, dinner, bed).
  7. A Time Timer can be useful for showing children how long they have before a transition. Show your child – e.g. “The red shows how much time is left before we have to go in the car”, or “The red shows how much computer time we have”. See to see what these Timers look like. You may purchase a Time Timer through the Time Timer website or at the Sensational Kids clinic. Please note: If your child is currently accessing therapy services through FaHCSIA, you may be eligible to purchase a Time Timer through this funding source. Please speak with our admin team regarding whether this is the case for your child (Ph: 9578 7560).
  8. Allow your child a ‘transition item’:  Having something they can carry from one location to another may help your child stay calm. What the item is will vary for each child.
  9. Validate what your child is feeling. This ensures that your child feels understood (e.g. “I know you don’t wanna go…”).
  10. Breathe! Staying calm ourselves during transition times is a challenge. So remember to breathe – transitions will get easier!

Good luck! And remember – please speak with your child’s therapist/s for transition tips specifically suited to your child. Happy transitioning!


Author: Alyssa Mann, Speech Pathologist & DIR Floortime Expert, Sensational Kids