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Transitions Are Hard: Navigating Transitions With Our Neurodiverse Students



Change is challenging for us all in one way or another, but for students with autism or other neurodiverse behaviors, change can be something that brings their entire world to a screeching halt. 


Why are transitions so difficult for neurodivergent students? Part of that answer may be simply that we are still learning to understand the complexities that make up neurodiversity and ASD. When we do not fully comprehend how their brains are computing information, it is easy for us to misinterpret the behavior or actions that come as a result. 


At Spectra Centers, it is our goal to understand the whole child, including the unique attributes of each individual’s brain and processing capabilities. We strive to meet them where they are so that we can address any challenges they may face throughout their daily lives. 


In this article, we want to understand some of the reasons why transitions are so difficult for our ASD and neurodivergent students and what we specifically do at Spectra Centers to better address this challenge. 


 

Why Are Transitions So Hard For My Child?


We are all creatures of habit. We love to feel like things are happening according to plan and that situations are under control. Children are no different. They need to feel secure and routines, repetition, and familiarity give them that sense of safety. 


Unfortunately, life is not always under control. There are a lot of things that are constantly in flux and as we adults know quite well, most of the time we are making adjustments from moment to moment. This leads to a sense of insecurity and can make us feel anxious. 


For our neurodivergent children and those on the autism spectrum, this is amplified intensely. Their view of the world is already so complex, the need for routine and predictability is a method of survival to help them cope with the flood of stimulation they are receiving. When their routine is changed, it is not just a small deviation from the norm, their entire understanding of the world is being altered. 


When we try to understand how jarring that can be, it helps us take a deeper look into how we handle these areas of change. As we know, change is inevitable. Our goal for every child is to transition smoothly into their next stage of life. So how do we help them prepare for these transitions that we know they all will have to face?


How We Prepare Our Students For Transitions


The first step to helping our students prepare for any transition is to understand that each individual is completely different. What works for one student may not be the solution for another. We have to engage with each student where they are, understand their needs, desires, and fears before we can address the best way to engage them in the transition process.


This is no easy task and it really does require a team of people who know these students, understand their behaviors and tendencies, and have their best interests at heart. This is where our Interdisciplinary Intervention Model or II Model shines. 


Our II Model ensures that we have access to multiple services all under one roof, trained clinicians who are able to collaborate across all programs, and provide support and guidance to family members. This is a valuable resource and a proven model for promoting a deeper level of information transfer and fostering a broader range of positive outcomes for students and their families. 


Through Spectra Centers, our goal is to prepare every student for their next chapter. Some of the transitions we know we will encounter with our students are the following:

  • Introduction to a structured school setting (typically a preschool program or early childhood education program)

  • Early childhood to elementary school settings  

  • Elementary school to intermediate schools (middle school or high school settings)

  • Graduation from high school to continued learning opportunities, career opportunities, and young adult life

  • Specialized learning centers (like Spectra Centers) to mainstream education systems


Our goal at Spectra Centers is to meet the needs of every student where they are and help prepare them for the next transition they will face - whatever that may be. 


Next Steps


First and foremost we need to be committed to understanding each student. Once we have a team in place to meet those needs, our next step is to help them build routines and best practices throughout their day. We are constructing the routine that will become their foundation. When we help them build that structure, we are better equipped to support them when the time comes to slowly bring changes into that routine. 


When we are preparing to introduce a transition, communication is key. Taking time to explain through words, visuals, and other prompts gives us some references that we can use throughout the transition time. Communication with the entire team, including staff, family members, and the student is critical and that includes incorporating communication with the new school or program that the student will be entering. The more information that can be shared across these channels, the better. 


Setting new expectations and beginning to implement small changes within the current routine of the student gets them ready for what to expect in their new environment. Finding the best tools to help them cope with the added stress or anxiety they may be facing will be the next challenge. Recognize what the individual needs to help them work through their feelings and find a new center or a new “normal” for themselves. This equips them to face the challenges and work through them, rather than avoid the discomfort of the situation. 


Be prepared for all of this to take time. It is understandable that this will be a time of trial and error. Everything we try may or may not be the best solution for each situation. Having the patience to see what is working best will produce the best results. 


Know that you are sure to encounter some wins and some disappointments along the way. Like everything that is worth fighting for, the small victories are worth celebrating. Be encouraged about every step forward and know that the setbacks do not define where we are going. Having a team in place makes this journey even better because for each step forward or backward, you are not alone. There is a support system in place for the highs and lows of every step.


Paths Forward


If we can provide any encouragement, it is that you are not alone. At Spectra Centers it is our mission to bring into the light the unique talents, abilities, and personalities of all our students. We want to meet them right where they are, support them and their families in all they do, and better prepare them for what lies ahead. 


We love seeing the change that happens, not just within our students, but among the families that we get to interact with on a daily basis. When you are not alone, amazing things start to happen. It is not about changing the individual, it is about finding the best way to nurture them so that everyone can flourish. 


To learn more about Spectra Centers, the services we offer, and our II Model, please visit www.spectracenters.org/contact-us or reach out to us directly at (303) 665-6800. We would love to talk with you and see how we can be of service. 

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Our Location

7205 West 120th Avenue,

Broomfield, CO 80020

Hours: 

Monday - Friday: 8am - 6pm

Saturday: Closed 

Sunday: Closed

Email Us: info@spectracenters.org

Call Us: (303) 665-6800

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