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Helping Kids Transition – Part 2

There are a variety of techniques to help kids transition.

There are a variety of techniques to help kids transition.

At the Brain Highways Center, every child transitions 15 times during a 45-minute class. Here’s what we recommend and why it works.

1. Be goofy: Humor and novelty override primitive reflex responses.

  • Sing directions in a baritone and soprano voice.
  • Tell directions with an extreme accent.
  • Pretend you don’t know how to do what’s being asked. (“Do I put my shoes on my nose?”)

2. Add visual, tactile, and auditory cues: If there’s static in one or more sensory channels, a multisensory approach helps ensure comprehension.

  • Put on a wild-looking hat whenever it’s time to switch activities.
  • Remove playing cards until only the joker remains (then it’s time to switch!)
  • Fly your child (like an airplane) to the next activity.
  • Play or sing the same song right before (fill in the blank).

3. Add speed: There’s no time to get distracted while racing.

  • Record how long it takes your child to (fill in the blank). Challenge your child to beat her previous record every time she makes that same transition.

4. Avoid solo transitions: If everyone has to make the switch, there’s no fear-based reaction (i.e. Why me?) from being singled out.

  • Have everyone get out of the pool or leave the park, etc. when it’s time for your child to go to (fill in the blank).

5. Transition during an undesirable activity: We’re all more likely to transition if the current activity is not so fun.

  • Arrange it so your child leaves for the tutor when he’s pulling weeds.
  • Pick your child up from a play date after everyone is already cleaning up.

6. Let your child direct the transition: Kids with an underdeveloped pons and midbrain like to be in control, so they’re more apt to do what they’ve stipulated.

  • Have your child call out a pre-determined word that signals it’s time to switch.

7. Jumpstart the transition: Kids with an underdeveloped pons tend only to see what is right in front of them.  So, give them what they need to get started.

  • Hand the jacket to your child, rather than having her go get it.
  • Put the toy box right in front of your child, rather than telling him to start cleaning up.

What else has worked for you?

Why Kids May Have Trouble Transitioning – Part 1


When we address what's going on with the lower centers of the brain, kids transition easily.

An underdeveloped pons or underdeveloped midbrain or poor proprioception can make it really difficult to shift from one activity to the next. Here’s why.

As soon as kids with an underdeveloped pons perceive something as a threat (it doesn’t have to be real), they react with a fight-or-flight response.  Demand that something needs to happen RIGHT NOW, and the fight just escalates.

If those kids go into flight instead of fight, they delay or postpone the upcoming perceived threat—which makes sense.  How quickly would any of us transition if the next activity required us to jump into a pit of rattlesnakes?

Kids with an underdeveloped midbrain get stuck on a recurring thought (“I want to play with Legos! I want to play with Legos!”).  With that thought spinning in their brain, any new message (e.g. “Time for dinner.”) has slim to no chance of being processed.  Such kids also have trouble filtering unimportant sensory stimuli.  That then makes it difficult to focus on transition directions or to switch activities without being distracted.

Kids with poor proprioception don’t always navigate successfully from Point A to Point B—especially, if there’s a large open space involved in the transition.  So they drift everywhere but in the direction they need to go.

And, of course, a child can have an underdeveloped pons and an underdeveloped midbrain and poor proprioception . . . making the task of transitioning especially challenging.

Can kids make smooth transitions even if the lower brain development is incomplete? Yes.  Such approaches then offer new solutions for parenting kids with Autism, Asperger’s, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and other children who experience difficulty switching from one activity to the next.

Helping Kids Transition  – Part 2 will appear in the next post.  Photo courtesy of parents connect.com

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