There are a variety of reasons individuals struggle moving from one context to another  but most of them can be alleviated by improving the communication supports to make the process more understandable.

STRESS:  For many students ending one activity and moving on to the next can be quite stressful.  It's hard to leave a familiar and predictable activity to move into an unknown situation.  Our students with Autism can be particularly challenged with this, but others are as well. There are several possible reasons these transitions can be tough:

  • The student is anxious because they don't know what's coming next.  This can be related to difficulty understanding their teacher's spoken explanation.  If this is the difficulty, simply helping the student understand what's next on the schedule may be all that is needed.  You can do this by teaching them to use the STUDENT ACCESSIBLE DAILY SCHEDULE.
  • The student may have a history of becoming stressed at not knowing upcoming activities and have a learned anxious response to changes. Once you are confident that the student knows the next activity (using verbal explanations, photos, symbols or objects to cue) you may consider giving the student a favorite object to carry from one activity to another.  This may be a favorite item they are given once they complete the original activity that they are allowed to keep until they get started with the next activity.  
  • If a student has significant stressful responses to changes throughout his day, he may need to have a favorite item to hold throughout the day.

SEVERE COMPREHENSION CHALLENGES: Other students simply struggle understanding symbolic communication so as you are giving directions, they float between activities, dependent on their partners to guide each move they make.  This may not be stressful for the individual, but it makes them extraordinarily dependent on others. For these students having a predictable and routine system for transitions helps them increase their independence and learn to interpret "symbols."  Symbols can mean an photo, picture symbol or even object that represents the next environment/activity they are moving to.

No items found.


One or more of the following may help ease the stress of a transition by increase predictability, helping the student understand what is coming next, or allowing them to carry a favored items from one activity to the next.

  • Timer
  • Transition Photo, Object, Written Word
  • A Symbolic Representation (photo, symbol, object symbol) of the next activity
  • Visual Countdown Strategies


No items found.