Today's guest blog post is all about ways to help students transition!!!
Our students need to navigate many transitions throughout the school day. Improving transition skills is an area where SLPs have an important role. I'm Daria from Speech Paths–thanks Hallie for letting me share my experiences and tips for making transitions smoother for our students.
Most of our students LOVE coming to speech, but there are many who are challenged by transitions.
Despite having fun once they get into our rooms, transitioning from the classroom to the speech room can be a struggle for many of our students over a variety of ages.
Transitioning from the classroom to speech is difficult for a variety of reasons. Two skills that play key roles are cognitive flexibility and executive function—areas of great weakness for a majority of our students. How many times have you gone to pick up a student only to find resistance because they are on the computer? Or they were just lining up to go to science lab? And then of course is the transition from speech back to the classroom. Students are finally engaged in the speech activity only to have it end (our sessions go quickly)!
Minahan & Rappaport (2015) point out that dealing with transitions is typically addressed with one broad approach known as the “countdown”. You know the one: “Five more minutes until it’s time to clean up!” I’ve observed many professionals (including myself) use the countdown.
The shortcoming of this method is that it is effective for only one part of the transition. Minahan & Rappaport state the importance of considering the four components of transitions:
1. Ending the first activity (addressed with the “countdown”)
2. Making the cognitive shift to the second activity
3. The physical transition or moving between activities
4. Initiating the second activity
Go back to the incident of transitioning a student from the computer to speech. Here’s how the transition breaks into its components:
1. The first part is the ending of the first activity: the student must stop playing on the computer.
2. The student needs to switch their thinking, moving from thinking about the computer to thinking about speech.
3. The student needs to physically transition between the classroom and speech room. This component has a less known time frame, a lack of structure, and less defined expectations.
4. Last, the student needs to sit down in speech and engage in the planned activity.
Collaborating with both teachers and classroom aides is crucial to success, and developing methods together is very rewarding. One thing I’ve found is the importance of choosing appropriate transition warnings for each component.
For example, to help a student stop an activity (especially one they like), clear stopping points are helpful, as opposed to the broad time parameters in the “countdown”. For instance, five more pages, read until the end of the page, one more level. Teachers have found placing a small sticky note on the exact place to stop reading helpful. Ask for stopping points warnings to be given prior to your arrival.
Research indicates that TLD children visualize a future picture of the next event prior to making a transition. For our students, who are weak visualizers, the cognitive shift becomes more difficult. One strategy to help with this component of the transition is to take a photograph of the student in the speech room. I use these types of pictures to show the child what we look like in speech, thus building visualization skills.
I’ve found it helpful to increase structure during transition by making social expectations clear. For example, most of my students are unaware of how to keep their bodies in the group, or how to gauge their pace and be aware of where their bodies are in space. The transition from the classroom to the speech room is a terrific therapeutic opportunity to work on these skills. Being specific about materials that are needed, voice volume in the hallways, and how to enter/exit the speech room has also been beneficial.
When we are ready to transition to the speech activity, I’ve found it helpful to use a visual schedule containing a list of activities in sequence. Discussing how the activity starts and ends helps my students understand what to expect.
Breaking down the transition into smaller skill sets has been very helpful to my students and me. What are methods that you have used successfully to develop transition skills?
Daria O'Brien has been a speech-language pathologist for over 20 years. She currently works in a school setting and has a private practice focusing on social communication skills.