Transitional tools for anxious kids

No one likes having their plans cancelled or changed. It can be horribly frustrating to re-establish a schedule or daily plan, and unfortunately, this happens all the time, especially to children.

Everyone needs stability and warning about impending change, but when you have a sick or sensitive child in your care, change can be a traumatic event for all involved.

Living with someone who suffers from anxiety that is induced by change can be highly frustrating, but there are things you can do to support the individual to feel more comfortable about change.

It was fortunate for us, as an autism family, that we had been working on desensitising our eldest to change when our other son experienced a life-threatening asthma attack. While William was at school two-year-old Gabriel had taken himself off to play in his room, and when I discovered him, he was a listless and hardly able to draw breath. I rang for an ambulance, and we went straight to the children's hospital.  

Because of our efforts in supporting William to feel safe when a change occurred I was able to get his grandmother to collect him from school and take him home to her house without a hefty amount of fuss. This incident meant that Gabriel and I were in the children's unit for three nights and our family had to manage with Williams needs. Upon reflection, this was a perfect test for our family.

Here’s how we managed it:

1) Start a conversation with family and community

Example: We informed our family and friend on the approach that we intend to take with William over the coming months and asked for support and understanding. I took the time to show them the concepts and explained the entire process and rewards that we expected. From my family's point of view, this meant that they could participate and interact within the guidelines of what William required in those early days.

2) Make a visual planner and keep everything clear

Example: We created a solid routine and planned our week out using visual cards, and we stuck to it. Because we stuck to the program, William felt more comfortable in his daily environment. I noticed that although it felt rigid for the household, he felt calm knowing what was coming next which made him easier to teach.

3) Graduate to making unscheduled changes whether they are needed or not

Example: Once William felt safe, I started introducing the idea of having to make changes to the schedule. The changes that I made involved creating more time for the activities that he loved. It was easy to win him over and feel comfortable if I included things that he had vested interest. Eventually, this evolved into swapping the order of meals, outings, activities and school programs. We even went as far as to cancel things for no reason other than getting him use to change.

Follow the link to easy, printable visuals