8 Ways to Help Children Transition in the Classroom, Therapy & Home

Transitions, moving from one activity to another, can be very tricky for many children with language delays. It can be a time of stress and confusion as they can be unsure of what is going to happen next.  If they are doing an activity they really enjoy, it can be hard to do something less engaging.  For those children who don’t like change, even the small transitions in the classroom can be overwhelming.  Here are some suggestions to help them move from activity to activity more successfully.

1. Use real objects. Some children have difficulty understanding that a picture means we are going to do something different.  Giving them an object such as a ball to mean we are going outside or to the gym.  Giving them a letter means it circle time. Use these objects only for transitions.  The ball, for example, that you use as a transition tool is ONLY used as a transition tool. It can be too confusing to use it as a transition tool and a toy.  As well children with limited vision respond well to real objects because they are 3D and can feel the different shapes.

2. Use Photographs. Take photos of the area that the children will be doing different activities.  As well, take photos of the people the child will be going to see throughout the day.  Make a book of the different photos.  Hand the child the page of the activity that they are going to do next.  Some children respond better to full page size visuals; other children respond well to smaller sized pictures. Google images can also be a good resource.  

For some children just having a photo of the activity is not enough.  They need to see themselves in the photos.  Take photos of those children doing the different activities and then make a book for that child using those photos.

3.  Use drawings.  Many therapists and schools have access to Boardmaker or Smarty Symbols or Lesson Pix or one of the other programs that let you use drawings to help with transitions.  This is very similar to using photographs but you are able to make them more general.  One advantage to this is that you can make them for the whole school or therapy office. This can make them quicker and more efficient to produce.

4. Use written words. For children who are reading, using words or sentences can be a great way to help with transitions.  As well for  older children, it is more age appropriate then pictures. Caution: if older children respond better to pictures/drawings then written words then continue to use the drawings.

5. Use schedules.  This lets children see the overall structure of the day. It can help moving from one activity to another.

6. Use Countdowns.  Tell the children when an activity is about to end. Visual timers are also very helpful to use as well This is especially important if they are having a lot of fun.  This let’s them wrap up what they are doing and get ready for the next activity. 

7. Use first/then boards. These are a great way to help with transitions.  It helps them know what going to happen now but also in the future.  I find it works best when a non-prefered activity is first then is matched with preferred activity (second). 

8. Use songs.  I’ve talked in a previous post about using songs in the classroom and in therapy.  Songs are predictable. They are a fun way to create a routine about what is going to happen next. Some of the songs you can sing are about what is going to happen during the transition. One I’ve used is for the transition from gym to the classroom. It goes like this, “Line up on the wall, Line up on the wall, It’s time to go back to class so line up on the wall.” Then when the children are going to class you could sing, “Walk, walk, walk your feet walk them to the class. Go and find a place to play. It’s centre time today.” Other times use favourite songs to help them through the transition.  For example, if a child has trouble getting on the bus, you could sing their favourite song.  

BONUS:  Be creative.  Not all of these are going to be effective.  You may have to play detective and try a number of these tools or even invent some of your own. 

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