Parents fear the receptivity of their children to new beginnings. Transitions are an inevitable phase of life. Putting oneself in the shoes of a person on the autism spectrum can help a carer to understand how to navigate changes in a smooth manner. Implement a stop-check process to make sure the individual is progressing on the right track. With care and communication at the core of your plan, here are a few pointers to keep in mind every time there’s change on the horizon.
Make them feel in charge: Individuals on the autism spectrum are often anxiety-ridden in new environments as they feel a lack of control over what is happening to them. Offer them a choice wherever possible even if it is the most minor of activities, such as getting dressed, meal options and the like.
Plan ahead: Explain the transition and what to expect so that they know what is coming up. Use visuals or calendars, depending on the individual’s understanding. Visit the new place with them and observe their reaction within that environment. No one likes being taken by surprise where major life changes are concerned.
Introduce slow changes: Overnight transitions will only backfire so maintain a routine as much as possible. Let them know what changes are to be expected and how you and they are going to face it. Accompany the person to the new place and visit it many times over to induce familiarity.
Communication is key: Remain accessible to their questions, doubts and fears so that they know there is someone trustworthy around. It encourages them to build a rapport.
Accommodate sensory sensitivities: Take their sensory needs into account, be it the need for sunglasses, noise-canceling headphones, breaks from stimulating environments or any such demands.
Speak positively: Praise freely and use rewards to encourage the individual’s efforts to co-operate.
Transition objects: Encourage the individual to bring along items that provide a sense of comfort or security. Transitional objects such as a soft toy or a blanket make the change easier on them. Fidget toys or stress balls can also be provided to offer support.
Rope in support: Everybody needs a network of family, friends or other support groups. It will help ease the strain of the transition. Depending on how the individual is responding, a therapist may be introduced too.