Transition Time: How to minimize meltdowns
Create a schedule
A visual schedule is a good way to go, so start by including words and pictures of all activities that will occur during the day. It can be a checklist or removable pictures so that it can be interactive. It will give your child a sense of control over their day and activities as well as help them understand when it is time to transition to the next one. Not to mention it could be fun for your child to check items or activities off of the list; they could make a game of it. They will also feel more at ease when they have a clear idea of what their day will look like. The schedule can be used at home and/or at school. Just make it small enough to fit in a folder and it will be perfectly portable.
Give transitions time
No one likes being rushed especially if it is an activity that they enjoy, so it is good to give transition statements and allow them to ease into the next activity. This is important if they are getting used to a new schedule, then perhaps things can speed up once the adjustment to the new routine is made. Transition statements like "you have two more minutes, then we're going to ___" are helpful even if your child does not have a clear concept of time because if you are consistent in using that same statement, they will eventually understand that the activity is ending soon.
Arrange the environment appropriately
Generally transitions will be smoother if there are no distractions. Pathways to the areas where the next activity will take place should be clear and free of distracting or reinforcing items (i.e. no iPad on the floor). The classroom should be a place that both the student and the teacher/therapist/parent(s) are comfortable working in. The feel of the room can calm a child or give them sensory overload. Rooms with a warm and calming feel are best. Wood floors, soft carpet and pastel wall colors like light blue, green, purple, pink or peach are good.
Have a highly preferred reinforcer handy
Be sure to keep a reinforcer on hand and make sure it is highly preferred if your child has difficulty with transitions. If the child transitions appropriately, then they are immediately rewarded with the reinforcer. If not, they do not receive it. It also helps to arrange your schedule so that a highly preferred activity like playing outside is followed by a neutral activity like reading a book or eating a snack rather than sitting at a desk to work.
Behaviors usually do not disappear immediately because it takes work and children with autism need time to adjust to new things. So be consistent and give it time and soon you will have a routine that will make you and your child happy.