Friday, August 21, 2015

The Trouble with Transitions

Transitions can be difficult for many children.

Many children experience feelings of anxiety around transitions. This can present itself differently in each child. Some children may present as feeling slightly anxious and communicate this verbally or through behaviour, some may have a full on meltdown. 
It all depends on the child; their needs, abilities and even how they are feeling that day. 

Here are some transitional areas I have witnessed children feeling anxiety around:

  • Home to school
  • Travelling from the bus/car to the classroom
  • Going to and from the bathrooms 
  • Moving on from one activity to the next

Within each of these areas there are multiple reasons why our children might feel anxious and/or frustrated.
Here are some examples I have seen:
  • Home to school: This can be an area of transitions that causes huge amounts of stress for our children and their caregivers. Before they even get to the car or bus, there is so much to be achieved. Getting washed, dressed, eating, any extra health/physical needs that need to be attended to.  
  • Travelling from the bus/car to the classroom: Now that the morning routine has been completed, the children now have to go to school with a full day of learning ahead! Sometimes, the events of the morning leave our children feeling ready to go straight back to bed so when it comes time to get off the bus and/or leave parents/caregivers, it can all just be too much.
  • Going to and from the bathrooms: Depending on toileting needs and where the bathrooms are situated, this can cause issues for some children. For children that are independent with toileting, they simply may not feel like going to the toilet and don't want to have to walk to the bathrooms if they don't need to go! Understandable? Yes! But for our pre-verbal children, their negative reaction to toileting may come across as avoidance.  Other children may find waiting a difficulty here also.
  • Moving on from one activity to the next: This area I noticed, was the area which caused the most anxiety for my children. If the activity they are doing is a preferred activity and the next one is non-preferred then it's quite understandable why they might not want to move on! Or perhaps, they weren't quite ready to finish playing and weren't expecting it to end so soon!
The thing we need to focus on is that the child has a genuine reason for feeling like this. We need to ensure all bases are covered so that there we have done everything we can to ensure that the child will not experience anxiety.  Easier said than done you say?! Well in my opinion, prevention is the key. Help prevent any anxiety occurring by using some of the strategies mentioned below and frustration levels should be at a minimum.

Timers are fantastic in all educational settings, but an absolute must in SEN environments. Many children are visual learners and so when you tell them they only have a few more minutes of 'Free Play', it may not mean much. If you place a timer in front of them, the words take on meaning and become concrete. They now know that when all the sand is gone/the buzzer sounds, then time is up! 
Timers are also great for children that find waiting difficult. Sand and/or liquid timers can be used as a calming visual while the child is waiting. 
Here is a link to a website boasting an extensive range of 

Verbal Reminders:
For our more verbal children verbal reminders can work very well. As the child is enjoying their activity and/or completing any classroom task, you can gently remind them they need to finish soon and/or time is nearly up. Even something as simple as telling the child how many turns they will have at the beginning of the activity can help prepare the child for the approximate length of time they will be doing this particular task.

Schedules as discussed in a previous blog post help the child to see how many transitions they will have and where they will be going for each one. Visuals like Now & Next can really help also as it sets out a clear instruction for what is expected. This can be used as a motivator also e.g. Now-work Next-toy. Now the child knows what they are working for. Here's a link to free visual aid on Twinkl:

Another useful visual is a 'wait' card. This can be handed to a child when they get to an area that you know they are going to have to wait. It can be used in conjunction with a timer to help the child to understand how long you expect them to wait for.

Fidget toys:
They are so many fidget toys that are suitable for classroom use. They are great as a reward after work, while sitting in a group discussion, while waiting, walking to another classroom etc. 
Not: If they are being used while other children are working, it is good to consider that they may be a distraction for others if they are noisy/light up etc. It depends on many factors of your own classroom/children.
Sometimes, if a child needs to get somewhere in the school, you can give them something to 'bring' to that room e.g. a book/note for the teacher/visual of where they are going, so travelling there has a purpose.

All images of fidget toys are from this great website Sensational Kids

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