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Transitions

Question:
When I ask my son to transition from one activity to the next, he sometimes has a tantrum. Any ideas for me?

My Opinion:

Here are several ideas that may work to help your child with transitions. Because each child is different, you will want to individually consider each one, to determine if it might work for your own child.

To help children with transitions, you can try developing a social story, with several transitions and clear descriptions with specific examples of how to handle each situation. Or a schedule showing each activity and the time for each. Or for a non-verbal child, you can make a picture schedule with PECS, showing each activity in order.

You can also buy your child a watch, maybe even with a chime timer, and it can give him a 5 minute warning of when a transition will occur. For many non-verbal children, 5 minute warnings of a visual nature, or a simple sound, work well. For transitions at school, when you arrive to bring him home, do you allow him a few minutes to play with the friends before you arrive? That might help. One parent always offers to join in the game, which generally causes her son to decide he does NOT want mom playing, so he agrees to leave!

Does he like doing the scheduled extracurricular activities like karate? If not, you can consider other activities for him that he might enjoy, which may also help with transitioning difficulties. If he does not like school, then explore with him why he does not.

If he does like the activities but still has transition difficulties, then maybe if he misses them once, it will provide him with more motivation. Tell him to let you know when he is ready to go, and you will drive him, but it is his responsibility to let you know when that is. Be sure he knows exactly what time you need to leave if he does not want to be late. Giving him some responsibility for being on time, especially if he really wants to go, sometimes is just what the child needs.

Also, when it is time to go to school, you can make him get in the car, no matter what stage of readiness he is. If he is still in his pajamas, then have clothes in a plastic bag prepared, and bring that bag in the car, and tell him he can dress in the school bathroom. If he has not eaten, he can have a cracker or something in the car, small enough that he will regret not eating before he left, but enough so he won't be absolutely starving when he is at school in the morning. Some parents have their children sleep in their clothes so they don't have to dress in the morning.

For my oldest son, when he was in school for kindergarten, I would give him one instruction at a time, otherwise he would tend to forget what to do, so all the time in the world would not have helped. A written schedule would also work for some kids, but my son needed to hear it. So I would say "get dressed", then "get your shoes", then whatever else was next. He needed direction to stay focused.

Another thing you can try, is specific modelling of the appropriate behavior. For NT kids, this can prove very embarrassing so they tend to not want you to do it again, but AS kids are not always embarrassed by this, or sometimes it is TOO embarrassing, so it would depend on your own child. Embarrassment can be good or bad, depending on your child.

Discuss this entire procedure with him BEFORE you take him to his friend's house, so he will know what you are doing before you begin, and he will know that he has the opportunity to stop the procedure at any point by just saying "okay mom let's go".

After giving him warnings, etc, and asking the friend's parents to give warnings "your mother will be here in 10 minutes" etc, then you arrive. You say "okay Johnny, I am here to bring you home" and then he says something similar to "I don't want to leave" or whatever he generally says or does that alerts you to a coming tantrum. Then you very specifically tell him each individual step required before he leaves, one at a time. So for example you say "your shoes are off, find your shoes and put them on", then you say "okay, now you need to collect your things, is that your backpack [or whatever]", then "tell your friend thank you for having you over", etc. If at any time he refuses to do these things, then you can tell him to apologize to everyone for being disobedient, or remind him of the consequences of not visiting this friend if he does not focus his energies on what you are telling him.

Another thing, have you ever worked it out with the friend's parents, so you can just leave? For example, if you will pick up your son at 5pm, and you arrive and he has a tantrum, then just leave, then the friend's mother says "okay johnny, I guess you will have to come with us while I do these errands [or help make dinner, etc]" then the mother has to say "no gameboy in the car, just sit and be quiet" or "here are some potatoes for you to peel", make it very unpleasant or boring. Another thing, depending on how far away the friend lives, is just to leave and then your son has to walk home, the friend's mother will say, "sorry Johnny, we have to leave now [or eat, or whatever], so I guess you will have to walk home." Then the mother brings him to the door and escorts him outside, then goes back inside, and you have parked around the corner out of sight but you should find your child walking by your car within 5-10 minutes.

Be sure any discipline relates to the behavior. For example, for tantrums from transitions related to leaving a friendís house, tell your child that the next time this sort of behavior occurs, that right there next to the car, or at the friendís house, or wherever the behavior occurs, you will tell him that he needs to apologize both to YOU and to his friend AND his friend's parents, for his behavior. Then he will not be allowed to play with that friend at that friend's house, until he can learn to control his behavior. He will need to play with that friend at YOUR house for a period of time, or not play with him at all, until he indicates he is ready to control his behavior when returning home.

Then discuss with him, ideas on what he is thinking or feeling, when he is out of control like this. He might be able to give you ideas, such as "I was just at a really great point in the game", and then you can discuss with him that perhaps he should NOT play certain games in the car on the way to return home, or whatever might have been the triggering factor, because it would provoke this behavior and you don't want to have to prevent him from visiting this friend again.

You can try "the reward" rather than "the punishment". Call your son about 30 minutes before you will be there to get him, and say something like this -- "I will be there in 30 minutes, at 5pm. If you are ready to go, and we can leave without you having a tantrum, then you can have 10 extra minutes with the Nintendo tonight [or dessert, or whatever else would motivate him]."

This can also work with school etc -- "If you can be ready to go to school on time every morning this week, on Friday [or Saturday, or whenever] you can have [or do] ____."


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