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Help managing change

Often people think of large transitions in life such as moving school. However, in day-to-day life there can be many, such as leaving the car to go to a park, going to school or just stopping an activity to do something new. For people who are neurodivergent, these changes can be difficult and they can get stuck, for example repeating an aspect of an activity.

Transition in education

The term ‘transition’ is used to describe the life changes that a child or young person may go through.

Key Transition points include moving from:

  • class to class
  • early years to primary School
  • primary school to secondary school
  • secondary school to work, college or university

It is as important to ensure a smooth transition from class to class as it is from key stage to key stage and setting to setting.

Social Stories and Comic Strips (As developed by Carol Gray)

This is a visual way to look at the things a person actually says in a conversation, how the person may be feeling and what their intentions may be.

It uses simple stick figures and symbols to represent social interactions and the abstract aspects of conversation.

Colour can be added to represent the emotional content.

This helps make the aspects of a conversation more visual and can encourage understanding of feelings more “concrete”

It doesn’t have to be perfect drawing.

Here is an example:

These are a good way to explain to a neurodivergent person what is happening and what expected behaviours are. They can also be used to help them understand risks around impulsive behaviours, or as they get older how peers can perhaps encourage them to do things that will get them into trouble

When writing one, have an idea of what the goal of the story is. Then consider what they need to know to achieve this understanding.

Gather the information needed:

  • Where does the situation occur?
  • Who is it with?
  • How does it begin?
  • How does it end?
  • What actually happens?
  • Why

If it is for a situation where the outcome is not clear use the words sometimes and usually.

Try not to use words that cause anxiety or distress. Use words and content that is at their level of understanding.  Use photographs, pictures, or drawings with the words to help aid their understanding. There are lots of examples on the internet of social stories, here are a couple of examples:

Or you could just make your own up:

Also see:

Further information about making your own social stories can be found at:

Help with the concept of time

A neurodivergent person may cope better with visual learning and would benefit from seeing how long they have at an activity. So, they can focus and be aware that something fun will happen next. Or conversely be cued into the ending of a preferred activity. Rather than having to process an abrupt end. (There are a range of different timers which can help with this dependent on what your child can understand and likes.)

Sand & Clock Timers               

Can they structure their free time, or do they need your help with this? Possibly have an idea board with photographs of what they could do that they can then go to in order to make them more independent around their free time. Start with two choices.


Theory of Mind- and the use of social commentary:

This is a concept described by Simon Baron-Cohen

  • It describes that for some neurodivergent people, the concept of putting themselves into someone else’s shoes, i.e., Imagining their thoughts and feelings is difficult. – termed Mindreading.
  • When we mind read, we not only make sense of another person’s behaviour (Why did their eyes move left?), but we also imagine a whole set of mental states (they have seen something of interest, they know something or want something) and we can predict what they might do next.
  • So, for a child a difficulty with this concept they will find other people’s behaviour confusing and unpredictable, even frightening.
  • As children develop around 24-month-old they will engage in pretend play, using their mindreading skills to be able to understand that in the other person’s mind, they are just pretending. But some neurodivergent children show less pretend play, or their pretence is limited to more rule-based formats.
  • To help your child develop an understanding of others’ emotions, feelings and why they are acting in a certain manner it is helpful to use social commentary.

Social Autopsy/Debrief: Helping the person to understand about a specific situation:

The idea is to gain the facts around the situation without making any judgements.

Identifying the emotions around the error may initially be difficult for them and work above around feelings will be helpful. Also, possibly the comic strip idea and social stories may also help understanding.

The idea is to understand the situation and what would be the unspoken rules that occur in this situation.

Think about who was hurt by the error. (Your child may not understand the others point of view…or they may not have understood them or what they were hoping to get across)

Think about what other people may have done in the same situation and how the consequences may have been different.

End with thinking about how everyone can help them in the future with the situation that occurred. They may find role playing ideas helpful; it may be that others need to make reasonable adjustments to help them due to things they struggle with.

Here is an example of a social autopsy format:

What happened?
Try to get them to think about what actually happened without using any correction words. Just encourage them to say what occurred, possibly include how they felt. If they did get angry remember it is ok to be angry…it’s what we do with our anger, we need to think about.
What was the social error and who got hurt by it.
Help them to think about why there was a problem? Talk a bit about what are expected actions/ choices etc.
So, what could they do next time
Think of options and how they may have changed the outcome for them.
Is there anything that we can learn from this? What could we do to help them in the future?
Think about what we could do to help them. Talk about role playing situations. Perhaps having others to understand things that are important to them.

Calm Down Corner

Being able to calm yourself when emotions run high – or self-regulate – is a learned skill. Similar to how a child is taught to tie their shoe once they have the fine motor skills to do so, once a child’s brain is developmentally ready to self-regulate, they can learn different strategies and ways that work well for them.

Think about what worked well for you the last time you felt angry, unheard, anxious or any other negative feeling. Did you go outside to get fresh air? Did you practice yoga or meditation? Take 10 deep breaths? Go to your favourite room in your home and read? We all have different coping mechanisms we’ve learned to use to regulate our emotions and return to a more neutral or positive space. Children are no different!

One way to help children learn how to self-regulate is by providing them with calm down corners. A calm down corner is a designated space in a home or classroom with the sole intent of being a safe space for a child to go to when they feel their emotions are running too high and they need to regain their emotional and physical control. These spaces are equipped with comforting objects and soothing materials that can promote mindfulness, breathing and reflection.

Take Action

The overall goal of a calm down corner is to provide the child with a space in which they’ll feel safe recognizing and regulating their emotions in a healthy way. These corners don’t need to be complicated and don’t even require purchasing any new materials or items if you do not want to. Calm down corners can be developed and promoted in a variety of ways and in both home and school settings.

At Home

Try designating a corner in a typically quiet room in your home as your child’s new calm down corner.

Fill the space with a soft rug or mat, bean bag chair, or other plush options for sitting or lying down, and with some of your child’s favourite books, stuffed animals or quiet toys.

If your child is older, you can utilize short bookcases to help block the space out to provide your child with some privacy.

At School

Find a corner in your classroom that can permanently act as your new calm down corner.

Designate the space as a special area where your students can spend time on their own when their emotions are running high.

Like with calm down corners at home, fill the space with soft, plush seating options and options for books, quiet toys, art and journaling supplies, blankets and stuffed animals

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