Tips for Improving Transitions


By: Amanda Bird, M.A., CCC-SLP

Let’s face it: transitions can be HARD. Do you find it to be difficult for your child to transition between activities? From the breakfast table to the car for school? From playtime to bedtime? From his or her favorite game to dinner? Here are some tips to help ease transitions and promote a smoother and more successful morning, afternoon, and night.

1. Give advanced verbal warnings: Some children respond well to verbal warnings (e.g., “five more minutes, one more minute, time to clean up/go to…”), this way the transition won’t feel so abrupt.
2. Try a visual: Use the “Timer” tool on your cell phone’s clock app, use a visual “first/then” aid (e.g., “First play, then ___”), use an inexpensive wall clock and use a dry erase marker to mark the “clean up” time, use a visual schedule of the child’s routine (e.g., bedtime, getting ready for school, etc.) so it can be consistent and they know what is expected.
3. Use an audio signal: A kitchen timer/buzzer, an alarm set on a cell phone or tablet to indicate when it is “clean up” time. Communicate with your child before setting it, and attempt a compromise (when able) for the time the alarm will sound.
4. Give your child a task: If transitions are tough, giving your child a “special job” may help. Have your child be the “Door Holder” when leaving the house, have your child be the “Garage Door Button Pusher” in the car, have your child carry/bring something to the next location so they feel like they are a special help.
5. Be consistent: Once the transition time is set, be consistent and know that it is OK to stick to it.
6. Realize transitions can be hard for children, so verbally acknowledge this difficulty with your child. Let them know you understand transitions are hard, but that it is time to do ____, and you can help.

1. Bribe: Try not to bribe your children with food, treats, or toys. This may set up the expectation that the child will receive this every time it is time transition to the non-preferred activity, and may make next time even harder.
2. Use too much language: When a child is very upset or dysregulated, they are less able to process lengthy or complex language. Once the child is calm, this is the opportune moment to talk it out.
3. Fight every battle: It is important to be consistent, but know that sometimes it isn’t possible to be “Wonder-Parent” at all times, especially if your child’s safety may be a concern in the given moment – give yourself a break!
4. Be afraid to talk to your child’s therapist: Your child’s therapist may have strategies and resources to help ease transitions in the clinic, at home, and at school.

Have any transition strategies that have worked well for your child? Share with us! Post or contact


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