Episode 122: Why Change = Behaviour – and what you can do about it

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.



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           

More Resources

The Ultimate Guide to School and Home

| by Sue Larkey and Anna Tullemans | This book provides key strategies for all ages and stages. It offers over 500 practical strategies and timer savers for school and home from engaging disengaged students, what to do if you don’t have a teacher assistant to considerations for setting up a classroom for teachers; and from developing friends, to moving house and choosing a school for families. It is the ultimate guide for teachers, parents and all professionals supporting children with autism spectrum disorder, including Aspergers, ADD, ADHD, ODD and other developmental delays.

Content pages below.


152 in stock


The Early Years: The Foundations For All Learning

| by Sue Larkey & Gay von Ess | This book is full of practical ideas to give children with an ASD and other developmental delays the KEYS to learning. Teaching to play, write, draw, imitate etc. Toilet training, community access, etc. To sit, ask for help, wait, play, attention to task, sign songs, etc. Great easy to photocopy programmes.


19 in stock

  • Time Timer – 20cm Medium

  • Time Timer – 7.6cm Small

  • Portable Schedule with Digital Timer

  • Time Timer PLUS

  • Time Timer Watch Plus – Youth

  • Time Timer MOD – Charcoal Colour

  • Time Timer Watch Plus – Adult

  • Time Timer Watch Plus – Youth (Blue)

  • Time Timer Watch Plus – Youth (Berry Pink)

  • Time Timer Watch Plus – Youth (Lime Green)



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