NO! NO! NO! yells a child as he is flailing on his first-grade classroom floor! The teacher is bewildered as all she did was ask the child to come to the reading circle. Instead, of compliance, her request was met with this volatile reaction. Yesterday, the same child ran around the classroom to avoid participating in a group activity. Clearly, change does not come easy to this student.
These scenarios are real – taken from just a few of the many, many, many accounts I have heard from teachers (and parents) of their students and children who have major challenges with transitioning from a preferred to a non-preferred activity. Routine schedules are essential for many of these kiddos and any alteration is met with objection.
To offer support to the adults who are faced with the monumental task of helping a child in their midst how to learn to pivot in the course of their day – I am offering this article as a kind of “roadmap”. Included are directions on how to create a few strategies to help calm or prevent the seismic behavioral eruptions that can occur when a child with an atypical response to change or flexing their schedule is expected to comply.
Keep in mind that this child is not intentionally being bad, but, perhaps doesn’t have the tools to easily negotiate from activity to activity.
The techniques you will find below are not difficult to implement if used consistently.
Here are the steps to how to create and activate a visual chart system that offers signals for transitions within a child’s daily schedule.
- Create a list of your child’s or student’s daily activities. This will be important as you will assemble a deck of cards with each activity on a card.
- Step 2 is to create a DAILY ACTIVITY CHART that communicates to the child their daily routine. For a younger child or one who cannot handle a board with a schedule of more than one or two activities – you can use a simpler alternative version -the CHOICES chart.
- When you decide on which DAILY ACTIVITY CHART is best for your child / student then you can assemble it. Be sure to chat with the child/student that this chart is to help them feel understood and that you know that change is difficult. Validate that they have “big feelings”. Allow them the time and space to process that there will be modifications to their regular routine. Be sure to let them actively participate in the process by having them help to create their Daily Activity Chart. Listen to their concerns and apprehensions. Assure them they are not being punished.
- Next, once the chart has been created, introduce the child/student to the variety of activity cards that will fill their schedule. Demonstrate how the cards can be positioned and are in the order of events for the day. Then show them the transition cards and how they can be used to to help as a signal that a change will happen. If possible, practice with the chart and cards before using them in “real time.” Consider doing role play – where the child can be the “teacher”.
- Note, also there are charts and cards that can be used to communicate FEELINGS and NEEDS. These are additional to the DAILY ACTIVITY CHART– and very helpful for a child to use when they don’t have the ability to express themselves fully. (Or they want to be stealth about signaling their needs – such as a request for a 3-minute “brain break”)
- Also you can invite the child / student to suggest any activities, needs, or feelings that are not part of the “deck”. (Especially older students.)
- Next there are cards for the adults to communicate to the class or an individual- such a QUIET or 1-2-3-TIME
- Data Collection is the last step. This is when you can determine if there were positive outcomes as a result to implementing these “tools”.
- Poster board or paper
- Tape or velcro.
- The cards can be copied and printed or laminated. I sent mine out as jpegs and made into 4 x6 inch photo quality pictures.
- Below you will find copies of the charts and samples of the cards I have created (thanks to Canva). You may download them for free.
If you wish to download the entire set of templates and cards- scroll to the bottom of the article and press the DOWNLOAD ALL CHART TEMPLATES button and the DOWNLOAD ALL CARDS button.
Lastly, let me know if these techniques/ charts/ cards work and if you have anything to add?
STEP 1- CREATE A LIST OF ACTIVITES
STEP 2 - CREATE THE DAILY ACTIVITY CHART
Once you identified the activities that your child / student will encounter during the day – create their visual schedule. I have created some examples for you in this blog.
This schedule template is blank with two columns and several rows. You will see that the columns are named USUAL SCHEDULE and CHANGE TO SCHEDULE. You can name your columns anything you wish – I just happened to use these titles.
NEED A SMALLER CHART?
Sometimes a full-day schedule may be overwhelming for a child to handle. If this is the case we can modify the presentation to a smaller sized chart.
An alternate is the chart called – CHOICES. Let us suppose that a student doesn’t want to do math or reading. They are both nonpreferred activities. But, by giving them a choice of which one to do first – they may feel empowered and will more likely complete the tasks.
You also can have a “deck” of activities and have the student pick two of the cards. All the cards in the deck are tasks that need to completed, but the student will feel that they get to determine their destiny by opting their top two choices.
ALTERNATE CHART:: CHOICES
The student is handed a CHOICES chart. They are asked to select two cards from a deck of four options. You can add preferred and nonpreferred activities to the deck or all of one kind (preferred or nonpreferred.) You can opt to have less or more options, as well.
Here is an example of a blank CHOICES CHART.
STEP 3: Be sure to include the child / student as part of the process.
STEP 4: Introduce the DAILY ACTIVITY and TRANSITION CARDS
SAMPLE ACTIVITY CARDS
About the Activity Cards:
These cards are of common actinides and SIGNALS for TRANSITIONS.
Here are some of the cards I constructed, but you are more than welcome to create your own!
REMINDER: The full deck is available at the bottom of this article.
STEP 5: ADDITIONAL "ADD-ONS"
“ADD – ONs ” include charts and cards that allow the child/ student to convey their FEELINGS and/or NEEDS.
Communication is key to helping a child cope
SIGNAL CARDS for the GROWN-UPS to USE
There may be times when an adult (parent or teacher) needs to use a cue card to relay information. Such as giving a three-minute “warning” that an activity is about to change.
LAST STEP: DATA COLLECTION
How do you know if these techniques are working?
Whenever you start a new “strategy” to help modify and/or regulate behaviors – you probably want to keep track of the effectiveness of the program. Realize, however, that you can expect an “uptick” of negative behaviors after you start. Why? Think of it this way. Have you ever wanted to start a good behavior – such as exercising daily -and then you realize after the first day it is HARD work! So, you want to quit! That is what may happen for a short time here, too.
To combat some of that “backsliding”, consider using praise (lots of it) for any attempts the child makes to comply with following the system (transition). Also, a token economy (tangible incentives like stickers, privileges, etc.) can be very helpful with a child “buying in” to this new system.
Be sure to document each day so you and your child can see the changes- hopefully for the better. An easy way is to just use /// marks as a way of tabulation each time that the child uses a chart successfully. And an XXX mark for when the chart was “in play”, but the child did not respond as expected. Use the chart below to help collect data and see if progress is being made or if you need different strategies or interventions.
Negative behaviors can be considered as 1)Non-compliant,2)Aggressive, or 3)Disruptive. Examples of these could be: 1) No, I won’t do it, 2) No I won’t do it and I will rip up the chart, 3) No I won’t do it and I’ll yell and have a major meltdown to disrupt the classroom environment and have everyone stop and pay attention to me.
DATA COLLECTION CHART to DOWNLOAD and an EXAMPLE.
THE CARDS IN THE DECK
SAMPLE ACTIVITY CARDS
SAMPLE TRANSITION CARDS
SAMPLE CARDS for the I FEEL CHART
SAMPLE "NEED" CARDS
I hope that the content of this article helps families and educators who are looking for techniques and actual hands-on tools which calmly allow a child to adapt to transitions.
I welcome any of your suggestions or feedback on these. Also, I am always curious if you enjoy the information and articles on this blog.
Which are your favorites?
What would you like to see more of here on LouiseSattler.com?
Use the comment section below to let me know your thoughts!
Special thanks to Ava Parnass