Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often require support and structure to assist with managing the many small transitions which occur during the school day. Students may require support to understand:
- when change will occur,
- why it is necessary,
- how it will affect them,
- what is expected of them during the transition,
- whether the change is temporary or permanent, and
- what will happen after the transition.
When this support is provided, behaviours of concern are likely to reduce and the student will be better able to focus on learning and participation. The following are some strategies to consider implementing with the student. The support required by each individual student will vary according to their needs. A combination of strategies may be appropriate.
- Provide a visual timetable which shows the student’s day or week – several copies can be kept available – one at home, one in the student’s diary or school bag, one on the inside of a locker door or desk. Timetables can be changed or highlighted as part of pre-warning the student about a planned change from routine such as an excursion. Click here to create a visual timetable.
- Pre-warn student of routine in-classroom transitions (such as finishing independent work and moving to another area of the room) ahead of time. Use of a timer, “change card” or other visual prompt can be helpful.
- Creating predictable routines for daily transitions such as packing away learning materials and getting out lunch and hat.
- Ensuring that daily routines are explained in notes left behind for casual replacement teachers, along with an individual profile of the student with ASD which explains any adjustments/support the student requires.
- For secondary students, a laminated checklist for each subject, which states which materials the student needs to bring to that class (for example, mathematics: calculator, ruler, pencil case, maths workbook, maths textbook).
- Talking to the student (or whole class) about upcoming changes to routine such as “wet day timetable” or a special assembly. Describe the schedule for the whole day and how this change will affect the other activities which will occur that day. A visual timetable or list on the whiteboard of the day’s activities will support student understanding.
- Providing student with a visual schedule for the tasks associated with the transition.
- Allowing the student extra time to complete activities associated with transition (such as packing their school bag).
- Providing the student with “pleasant distraction” during particularly challenging transitions. Such distraction may take the form of colouring-in, reading a book, listening to an ipod, or engaging in another preferred activity.
- Be clear about what is expected during transition times (in the classroom, the corridors, moving to and from break times and so on). Provide the student with reminders of appropriate behaviour prior to commencing the transition. These reminders may be verbal or visual.
- For secondary students transitioning between classrooms and subject-areas many times a day, stationery organisers may be helpful. For example, the student might have a different folder for each subject, labelled and colour-coded, which contains plastic zip lock bags pre-filled with materials or stationery required. The folder may contain the notes and homework for that particular subject, or have a checklist taped inside which lists the materials the student will require for class. Depending on the support needs of the student, the folder may have a label reminding the student of the classroom where the lesson occurs. The folder may also have a symbol on the front cover which corresponds to the subject symbol in the student’s visual timetable. To find symbols which correspond to various subject areas, see the visual timetable builder here.
- Prepare your student for the possibility of sudden, unexpected changes such as fire drills, lockdown, or the teacher leaving part-way through the school day due to illness. Discuss these changes and where appropriate, agree with the student on some support strategies that they may find helpful. Ensure that these strategies are practised during calm, quiet times, and that all staff (including casual relief teachers) are aware of the strategies and how to implement them if necessary.