Coping with Change: ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Other “Issues”
“Our children” are often identified as being “creatures of habit”, they tend to be highly regimented and rigid in their ways of thinking and acting. Virtually any type of change in environment and routine can become a massive dilemma for all children and teens, especially “our children” with “varied needs”.
Our children will have many new experiences to encounter as the school year winds down, summer vacation begins, and then the summer winds down and the school year begins again. Many parents experience either “selective forgetting” or feelings of “dread” as our children transition through these changes year after year.
So what’s a parent to do to help their child transition through times of change? Here are some suggestions based on my decades of teaching, training, and counseling children, teens, young adults and their families with special needs:
- Parents can and should use “modeling and role-playing” to help their child prepare for the ending or beginning of a new routine.
- Parents can spend time, along with siblings “training” their child how to create new routines and especially how to have some level of flexibility in these time of transitioning.
- Parents can develop a clear-cut timetable for the transition so their child will know what to expect and how they will still be able to have time to do preferred tasks. Even though little occurs perfectly, knowing what to expect will bring comfort to our children.
- Parents typically get best results by explaining Who, What, When, Where, and How factors play into the transitioning events and activities their child will experience. How this information is presented is just as important as when and where. During times of stress and turmoil is NOT the time to discuss potential changes, wait until our child and their environment are at peace to have these discussions.
- Parents need to have their child be part of the decision making process to establish better buy-in.
- Parents who create a “reward schedule” for a relatively smooth transition are most likely to see a less traumatic transition period.
- Parents who understand that it will take time and work for their children to get acclimated to a new routine and that they will likely experience some struggles as they go tend to be happiest. We are looking for “progress not perfection”.
- Parents who keep routine as times of change occur tend to be happiest. Parents who continue with light academics and various types of therapies that the child typically experiences throughout the school year tend to have a smoother time at transitioning and experience the least amount of regression of skills throughout the summer months. Social skills groups, camps, and activities where our children can experience successes lead to better social, academic, and behavioral development.
Dr. Eric Nach, Ph.D., M.Ed., A.S.D. Cert. Developmental and Behavioral Specialist and Associates