Jan 7

Smooth Transition Tips

By AbaWorks | Comments Off on Smooth Transition Tips

Throughout the day, every person changes from one activity to another. This change is known as a transition and transitions occur frequently during the day whether at school, work or at home. For some learners, transitions can be challenging. This challenge can occur whether it is from switching from a preferred activity to a non-preferred activity, going from one location to another location, or a change in routine. In this blog post, here are some tips that can support your individual before a transition occurs and during a transition.

  1. Establish a reinforcer First

Before presenting the transition, it is best to be proactive by establishing a reinforcer. When establishing a reinforcer, you must determine if the reinforcer is highly potent for the individual to strongly engage in after the transition and during the engagement with the non-preferred. With one of my learners, I provided 2 choices of activities he can engage in before he will transition to tracing. I remember I told him, “Do you still want to read books or do you want to play magnets?” With another one of my learners who is in school, she mentioned her interest in a few activities she would like to do after school finishes. Using this information, I took the opportunity to provide her with 2 choices of the activities she wishes to engage in after she finishes school for the day. Once the reinforcer is established, you can inform your individual when the transition will occur.  

  • Include visuals

When you inform your learner about the transition, it is important to include visuals such as a timer or a schedule. With a timer, you can prime your learner about how much time remains before they are expected to transition from their current activity to the next activity or location. With one of my learners who is potty training, I use a timer to show her that she will go to the bathroom in X number of minutes. As the timer goes down, I inform my learner how much time is remaining before going to the bathroom such as, “5 more minutes, then the toilet,” and “1 more minute, then the toilet.”

For learners that have multiple transitions throughout the day, a visual schedule in addition to a timer can be beneficial. In a previous ABA Works blog post How to use a visual schedule, I wrote about how to teach a learner to use a visual schedule in the home. With a visual schedule, you can present to your learner what they will be transitioning to. With one of my older learners, he has a whiteboard where you can write his schedule for the day. As I write his schedule, I will write items such as these:



The computer is one of the preferred activities he likes to engage in while exercise is a non-preferred activity. When he enters computer time, I include a timer and inform, “X minutes with a computer, then exercise.” When the timer went down to 2 minutes, I approached him to let him know how much time is remaining and then engaged with him about the computer game he was playing. When the timer goes down to its final minutes, it is important to be present with the learner to let them see how much time is left to expect the transition.

  • During a transition, praise is important

When it is time for the transition, an important tip I would like to provide is this. When your learner is demonstrating compliance to that transition, praise it! No matter how small or how many steps, you must praise their compliance. With my older learner, when he paused the game and asked, “Can I go back to it?” I responded, “Yeah, thank you for asking. First, let’s exercise then computer.” When my learner was gathering his materials for exercise, I still praised those steps by saying, “Thank you for getting your shoes”, “I love how you’re getting your mat ready”, and “Thank you for waiting to let the exercise video load. I appreciate that.”

 An important note is that depending on your learner, you may have to change how you present your praise. A few of my learners, had a better response when I used a playful voice whereas, with another learner I had, they had a better response when I praised with a neutral voice. For this part, you will know your learner best on how they respond to your praise.

  • Use these supports consistently

When you implement these tools, it is important to use them consistently during your learner’s routine. By being consistent, it will demonstrate to your learner what the expectations will be when these supports are utilized. As these supports become a part of the learner’s routine, transitions can occur more smoothly.

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