Transition Problems- 7 Questions SLPs Need to Ask

Your muscles tense as you enter the classroom, waiting for the outburst that you know is coming. You walk up to your next student, who starts to scream and throws himself on the floor when he sees you. Sound familiar?

Even if the version you are dealing with only escalates to students turning their heads away and being non-cooperative, it isn’t the reception we were hoping to have when we became SLPS. Nothing boosts your ego like a student acting out upon seeing you.

The truth is, it may have nothing to do with you, personally or as an SLP. Your student has problems making transitions. But, what we can we do about it?

I brainstormed a list for one of my readers recently and thought this information might be helpful to you as well.

Transition Problems- 7 Questions SLPs Should Ask Themselves


Yes, visual schedules can help- but only if they are being used consistently by the whole team and only if the student truly understands them. 

Transition Problems? 7 Questions SLPs Need to Ask
Ask yourself:

1. Does the student truly understand that the generic ‘speech’ symbol means you? Maybe you need to use a photo of yourself or of your room. Or maybe you just need to make sure the student understands the symbol. One way to do this is to have the student carry the symbol from his schedule and match it to the same symbol on your door.

2. Has the student checked his schedule before you arrive to see that a transition is coming? If not, you are a surprise.

3. Do your students have the language to communicate their needs for this situation?  Think about what a verbal student says to help cope:
“Can you wait a minute? I just want to finish this first.”
“I’ll be ready in just a minute.”
“I’m almost done.”

Maybe you need to teach your student to communicate wait and go, not just to follow directions with these concepts.

4. Have I made my therapy room a place my student wants to be? To do this, you have to have rewarding activities and objects which you intertwine with harder work.

5. Did I try to move my student along at the pace I hoped for, not the pace the student is capable of learning at?  Making jumps in difficulty level that are too big and spending too much of the session at a level of frustration rather than a level of success can both lead to transition difficulties the next session.

6. Did I end the last session on a positive note, with work the student was successful with and a little time with a rewarding activity?

7. Am I working together with my SPED teacher to support the students’ needs? We make great teams, and the teacher is most likely dreading these outbursts as much as you are.

If you can’t think of anything to change in your therapy session, or even if you can, brainstorming with the teacher is always a good idea. They spend more time with the students, and if you are working to support their classroom communication needs, they will support you, as well!
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