Teaching Transitions in a Therapeutic Preschool Program

As children acquire important developmental skills and begin a daycare or preschool program, they must learn to transition between different activities. While it can be frustrating for any child to be told to stop playing with their favorite toy to move onto a new activity, children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can have an especially difficult time transitioning between activities. If you are the parent of a child with autism, there are many ways that you and your child’s teachers can help to improve transitions during daily routines. If your child with autism is enrolled in a therapeutic preschool program, your child’s teacher might also use techniques to make transitions a bit smoother.

Transitions and autism
Many children on the autism spectrum experience difficulties with sensory processing. This may mean hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity to certain sensory information. As a result, transitioning to a new environment can present challenges. For example, moving from a calming room with low lighting to a room with fluorescent lighting can be unsettling for children with sensory issues who are very sensitive to lighting. Children with autism may also become upset when asked to transition from playing with a high-interest toy. Additionally, children on the spectrum often receive comfort from a concrete structure that is easy to predict, so they may have difficulty when they are unexpectedly asked to transition from one task to another.

How can a therapeutic preschool program help transitions
A therapeutic preschool program can be an excellent solution for children with autism who require more support with developmental skills than a typical preschool program.

ABA therapy: A therapeutic preschool program may provide applied behavior analysis (ABA therapy) for children who can benefit from additional support with behavior. This method is widely used, due to its evidence-based results. This type of therapy may be provided by a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) or Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). During ABA therapy, the therapist will work with the child to build positive behaviors, such as transitions, using positive reinforcement.

‘First, Then’ boards: A ‘First, Then’ schedule provides a visual representation of the sequencing of tasks. An example:


Transition toys: Some children find comfort in transitioning between activities if they have a “transition toy,” which they can physically carry with them as they move from one task to another.


Every child learns and processes information in a unique way, so not every child will benefit from the same transition strategy. If you think a therapeutic preschool progam in Chicago could help your child with transitions and other key developmental skills, click the purple button below or contact CST Academy at 773-620-7800 to learn more about the services we offer.