Blog#12: Transitions

PDAers may find transitions really challenging for may reasons: hyper-focus, sensory challenges, autistic inertia, and of course – demand avoidance…

Throughout the day as a NT person, I take for granted my ability to manage a multitude of micro-transitions which I usually have no issue with. Being able to support our neurodivergent kids with everyday transitions can help reduce meltdowns, anxiety and help create a calmer home environment.

Someone once said (forgive me but I can’t remember who) that when the autistic brain becomes focused on something, its as if the brain has hundreds of tiny tentacles which stretch in and attach to the object of their focus. The PDAer becomes one with the task they are working on. Moving to another task when they are not ready to do can feel almost painful, as if the hundreds of tiny tentacles are now being torn away. That’s worth trying to remember when we next shout ‘switch off the iPad and come and have your dinner’…

What I try and do is something called building a bridge. It’s exactly that: I try and build a bridge between myself and JJ in order to gently move him away from the task he is involved in, towards what we need to move on to. For example, if he is gaming and I think it’s time for dinner, or bathtime, I start to watch him play. Once a few minutes have passed, and I know what he’s doing, I can start to make some observations about his activities and how it’s going. Once I’ve gently entered his world, I can start to ask some more probing questions so his attention begins to gradually shift away from the game towards me. Gradually, he usually gets to a suitable stopping point. And because I’ve taken the time to really try and understand what he’s doing, I can identify that point and help to signpost it to him. This can take time, so bring your bag of patience with you! And if you can, try and swallow any frustration you’re feeling, so it doesn’t add stress to the situation.

Some things to consider when thinking about transitions:

1. Consider, is it REALLY worth it? Is this transition a deal-breaker?

2. Can I allow more time for this transition, to reduce my own stress?

3. Can I use humour and distraction here?

Remember – tentacles, and build a bridge!

The attached graphics are examples of JJ’s transition issues, but they can really be substituted for any activity really.

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