top tips to reduce behaviour during change to support neurodiverse children

Many children with ASD have difficulties accepting change and transition from one activity to another. In fact, most behaviour happens during change/transition. In my experience this is because it requires problem-solving, choices and adults tend to use more verbal information instead of visual information. It can also be a time of movement and high noise level, which can cause sensory processing difficulties. Below, I have listed some key times you may need to put in place strategies to support children during change.

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Transitioning between activities can be a challenging process for both teachers and students. However, with the right preparation and tools, it can be a smooth and uplifting experience. Here are five tips to help teachers transition their students to school:


This Podcast provides tips and strategies for teachers to help neurodiverse children transition from one activity to another. It emphasises the importance of giving children time to adjust, using visuals and signing to communicate, and pre-warning children about changes. It also suggests using a time timer to help children manage their own time and using the words “wait” and “finish” to help them understand what to do.
Highlights for teachers and parents includes:

  • giving children time to adjust (00:19:00),
  • using visuals and signing to communicate (00:20:44),
  • pre-warning children about changes (00:05:03),
  • using a time timer to help children manage their own time (00:19:58),
  • and using the words “wait” and “finish” to help them understand what to do (00:21:35).


  • Use timers to help manage time and give students the skills to look at a clock.
  • Incorporate visuals and signing to supplement communication.
  • Provide no surprises by pre-warning students of any changes.
  • Create a schedule that includes the information that is important to the student.
  • Be consistent with routines and expectations.



Example Activity / Behaviour

Structural Change Routine Change


Pack away / finish activity

Give five minute warning.

Use a Time Timer so can visually see ‘how long’.

Use a visual schedule that shows what is happening throughout the day or use ‘Now, Next, Later’ visual to tell them when they will return to a preferred activity.


Choose an activity

Minimise the choices i.e. instead of a whole shelf of puzzles or books have two puzzles or two books. Give real choices e.g. do your homework now or after dinner.


Lining up

Have a set spot in the line, and set partner. This can change each week. Have the ‘other child’ be a supportive peer who will help them line up in the correct place.

Let them stand with an adult or give a job to do e.g. hold equipment or count students.


Find a partner / friend

Set partner. Get the partner to go to the ASD child, so they don’t have to find them. (Be careful using the word ‘friend’ as they may perceive they don’t have any.)


Giving instructions to change activity

Use visuals to support language. Use Signing (everyone uses different gesture or words to mean pack away, so sign ‘FINISH’ which is more universal).

Use pictures to support language (Pics for PECS is a GREAT and reasonably priced visual system, see page 5).


Sensory issues

Movement, noise, touch, smell can all create sensory issues for students with ASD. Be aware of any sensory triggers, i.e. whistle to stop activity, bell to go inside, touch at line, or tote boxes/lockers, singing at assembly, food smells at eating time. See sensory

books page 6 to understanding sensory and strategies.

Feeling out of control / wanting control A schedule helps them see and understand what is going to happen next. Schedules also help people with ASD to organise themselves and to plan ahead.


Sit on mat

Have set spot. Use a sensory mat to sit on (see page 7). Let them sit in teacher’s chair or have a job to help the teacher.
Outside / inside Home / school Often they are so involved in an activity they don’t want to leave it. This is where the importance of timers, clocks, and pre-warning is VITAL. Always tell them when they will get to return to preferred activities i.e. “When you eat lunch, then you can           

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