Transitions can be a great challenge to families and educators when they are working with children on the spectrum, with ADHD, SPD or another learning challenge. Let’s take a look at a classic scenario.
Mom: “Johnny, come inside and have lunch”.
Johnny: ignores mom
Mom: “Johnny, time to come inside.”
Johnny: drops to the ground and begins a tantrum
This is not an uncommon scenario. Actually, it is on the lighter side. Mom may then attempt to go to Johnny, pick him up to physically redirect him to the kitchen. This will often result into a huge power struggle between Johnny and Mom.
Power struggles only occur when one person (mom or teacher) executes a request wherein the request recipent does not wish to comply, simply because, he does not wish to give up his power. Thus, a power struggle ensues. This CAN be avoided. Simply put the power back into the child’s hands. Think about it, these children feel powerless enough as it is as they struggle each and every day with their individual challenges. They need to feel a sense of personal empowerment, perhaps more than others.
Avoid power struggles with these suggestions:
1) Change the dynamic
Mom: (5 minutes beforehand) “Johnny, Lunch in 5 minutes.” stated calm, yet firm. Perhaps a step further, take a picture of lunch or have a lunch image on hand, print on 8 x 10 paper and post it where he can see it when you make this announcement. This offers the child a visual cue to the auditory request and serves as a visual reminder.
Johnny: keeps on doing what he is doing.
Mom: (1 minute before hand) “Lunch in one minute.” Set a timer to sound when one minute is up.
Mom: “Lunch now. ” stated calm and firm.
Johnny: comes in.
Mom: “Thank you Johnny for coming in for lunch. Good listening.” Mom directs Johnny to kitchen.
If this does not play out successfully, then redirect the child using your creativity at the moment. Perhaps you can suggest that you will race him to the back door. Or sing a song like, “The Ants go Marching” and act it out marching like ants to the back door. Have a favorite toy in your hand to encourage the child to come inside. Offer a reward for the positive behavior. In this case, the reward may simply be a return to outside play after eating x amount of bites from lunch.
Visual Schedules that can be posted on the wall or refridgerator serve as visual prompts Check out this schedule board kit. For easy transport, I would tape 2 x 2 images of activities to a ruler that could come with us as we traveled from the bank, to the post office to the supermarket. I took real pics of the post office, the bank and other commonly visited spots. My son would help me plan out the day, giving him a sense of control and then he would remove each image upon completion and he would proudly announce where we should be heading next.
Auditory and visual timers are also a great tool for transitions. Check these ideas out.
Be on the look out for create solutions for transitions to avoid entering the power struggle zone. Empower struggling children with a sense of control and teach them how to self regulate through the use of various tools.