5 Tips for Tolerating Transitions in a Self-Contained Classroom

Transitions can be tough for all students, but they can be especially challenging for those in self-contained special education classrooms. As a special education teacher, you know firsthand how difficult it can be to get your students to move from one activity to the next, or to leave the classroom for an outing.

But don't worry, there are plenty of strategies you can use to help your students tolerate transitions more easily.

If you want to read more on transitions, you can read 4 more tips here!

Give advance warning:

One of the most frustrating things for students (and adults, for that matter) is being caught off guard by a sudden change. To help your students better tolerate transitions, try to give them advance warning whenever possible. For example, if you know that you'll be switching activities in five minutes, let your students know ahead of time. This will give them time to wrap up what they're doing and mentally prepare for the next thing.

Use a visual schedule:

Many students with special needs benefit from visual supports, and a visual schedule can be a great way to help them understand and anticipate transitions. Create a schedule that lists all the activities your students will be participating in throughout the day, and post it in a prominent place in the classroom. You can use pictures, words, or a combination of both to represent each activity.

As you move through the day, have your students point to each activity as it happens, and then cross it off the list when it's completed. This will give them a sense of structure and help them understand what's coming next.

I have some visual aids that can come in handy already made for you in my TpT store.  You can grab those here!

Have a consistent routine:

Routines can be very comforting for students with special needs, and having a consistent routine in place can make transitions go more smoothly. Try to start and end each day in the same way, and use the same routines for transitioning between activities.

For example, you might always start the day with morning greeting, followed by attendance and calendar time. Having a predictable routine will help your students know what to expect and feel more secure.

Use transitional cues:

Sometimes, a simple cue can be enough to help students transition from one activity to the next. For example, you might use a particular song or sound to signal the start of a new activity. You could also use a physical object, like a special stuffed animal or a small bell, to signal that it's time to move on. Experiment with different cues and see what works best for your students.

Offer encouragement and support:

Transitions can be tough for any student, and it's important to offer encouragement and support when your students are struggling. If a student is having a particularly difficult time transitioning, try giving them some one-on-one attention and positive reinforcement. Let them know that you believe in their ability to make the transition, and that you're there to help them if they need it.

I hope these tips will help you and your students make the most of transitions in your self-contained special education classroom. Remember, it's all about finding what works best for your students and being patient and understanding as they learn to cope with change. And if all else fails, don't be afraid to have a little fun and add some whimsy to your transitions – it never hurts to inject a little playfulness into the day!

I am a High School, self-contained Autism teacher from Central New York, who is passionate about individualizing student learning. I am a mommy of three, lover of all things Disney, married to my best friend and addicted to chocolate!! I hope that you find great ideas and inspiration here, so welcome!!

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