Why transitions lead to breakdowns and the need for closure

“I did a hard thing today.” – Insightful 7-year-old 

One of the most challenging aspects for Autistic and ADHD kids is leaving an idea “unfinished.”

It’s a struggle that leads to complete breakdowns during transitions, whether at home, school, or therapy.

Consider what the expectations are for a child to transition and how many times they’re expected to during the day.

It’s much more than “just” moving from one activity to another. 

Bringing it back to where “I did a hard thing today,” came from. 

Part of therapy is being open to a challenge and how we slowly build resilience through discomfort.

Let me be clear that this isn’t purposeful discomfort. It sometimes arises when skills are lacking.

It sometimes shows up when you’re pulling from resources to build awareness and integrate concepts. 

Discomfort is what brings about change.

During these struggles, when ideas are incomplete and thoughts are stuck, we want to gift ND kids our regulation and ease.

Even more so when they’re feeling uneasy. I say that you are gifting because, when you are regulated, your nervous system passes that on to your child.

We want to make sure that there is ample time to process and come to terms with the fact that something is ending. Kids need closure.

We give closure through our presence and the words we carefully choose.

Sometimes it sounds like this: “what I’m asking is a different idea…you’re thinking we should…and I’m wondering something else.”

Rather than going into an explanation of why we don’t have time or quickly wanting kids to think of something better that’s coming up so they “let go,” we bring them back to the present moment: “I hear you really wanting those magnet blocks…we’re going to save that idea…today we have…”

Remember to connect successes. 

Here’s an example: “Remember how hard it was to leave your chalkboard drawing unfinished…you did that! You figured out how. Today, we are also letting go.” 

There was a pause followed by: “I did a hard thing today.”

We mirror this insightfulness with: “Yes, you did do a hard thing today.”

Less is more!

For Autistic and ADHD children, navigating transitions can be tough, leading to emotional struggles. It goes beyond a simple shift in activities, requiring a nuanced approach. Offering regulation, time for processing endings, and closure is essential. Connecting with each child’s successes promotes resilience.

Learn to navigate challenges with resilience and grace

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