Changes, they are a-coming.
Those words are like nails on a chalkboard to many children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). In my present work with middle school-aged students on the spectrum, we prepare students days in advance for even the slightest alterations in their schedules. Everything from a class trip, to a planned teacher absence, to a haircut is discussed, practiced and given a social story.
Why? Well, it helps to reduce anxiety. It also helps children realize that while there are so many unpredictable events, people and situations in this world, there are also many ways in which we can take some control and have fun at the same time.
Two time author and parent Robin Rosenberg beautifully tells the story of Brookie Cookie overcoming her anxiety about going to a new school and riding the bus for the first time in her new book, "Funky Yellow Bus."
Told in soothing rhythmic fashion and presented with whimsical illustrations by Bernie Freytag, the story follows Brookie Cookie from her initial fear and anxiety of getting on the bus through her musical journey towards embracing change by gravitating to the people and activities she most enjoys.
For Brookie, a familiar friend and her love of music provide the smoothest transition from fear to joy. For Dr.Temple Grandin, professor, author and autism advocate, doorways and windows serve as a visual metaphor to help her manage change and deal with the resulting emotions. For your child or student, it may be dance, video, a story, a poem or art. Using a medium that the child naturally loves and gravitates towards is ideal.
No matter how we opt to foster a smooth transition for our children, be it imagery, music or a wonderful story such as "Funky Yellow Bus," always remember to prepare in advance and review, review, review!