Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Of all the ways we've tried to transition Buddy Boy from one task to another, the one that has consistently worked is the simple statement that we need to stop doing "x", and now we will be doing "y", then counting backwards from 5.

Buddy Boy gets absorbed in activities, and transitions have always been hard on us all. His reactions are not nearly as severe as they used to be, but moving from one activitiy to another is still quite challenging.

We've tried (and still do) give 5 minute/3 minute/1 minute warnings. We've given choices for activities. We've tried premacking. Written schedules, clocks, positive reinforcement. Verbal explanation of the 5 w's , negotiation, and even just saying "We're going to do this now. Let's go." All of the above methods (and others I may have forgotten to mention) have been tried, and all have worked at various times to one extant or another. But none works as predictably as the counting down method.

I've tried to get away from it (it seems a bit mechanical and childish to be using with a 7 year old), but Buddy Boy doesn't seem to disengage as easily from one thing to start another without this prompt.

I wonder what exactly there is about "doing the count" that gets him to go with the flow. Is it the finality of it? I mean, it's not as if there are any dire consequences if he fails to comply. And when there are announced consequences, this method still works better than all others.

The method even works fairly well if I just use my fingers to count backwards, as I'll sometimes do rather than shouting out a countdown across a playground. So it's not the tone of my voice.

Perhaps it's the simplicity of it. Perhaps Buddy Boy interprets everything else as being open to negotiation (he loves to negotiate-which is usually viewed by us as a good thing), but he receives the countdown as singling the end of all negotiation and time to move on. I don't know.

We still try to use other methods (I like to give my kids as much autonomy as possible, and this method is just pure directive), but it's good to know that we have something that does work reliably.


Maddy said...

Transitions have always been our number one issue [as parents that is] It's one we're still working on.
Best wishes

mumkeepingsane said...

Transitions are tough here too. We count up, not as a punishment of course, and I think it helps him to acurately predict EXACTLY when the change will take place. It works well for us.

I figured this out in a wierd way. I was trying to get him out of the tub. It's unacceptable for me to pull the plug and I couldn't get him out. So I said "we'll count to 5 together and then you pull". And he did!


It sounds like he's getting something else to focus on before the transition takes place. The counting focuses him on the 'count', disengaging him from the activity. I wonder if you tried a transition 'song' would that work? Like the Barney "Clean Up, Clean Up, everybody everywhere"

I dunno, I'm not a behavioral scientist, I just play one at home! Good luck, Bill

Club 166 said...

We used to use the "Clean Up" song all the time for cleaning up. It worked fairly well. We haven't lately because

a) mention of clean up immediately triggers discussions of why he can't clean up various things- "This structure is important, I took all day (10 minutes) to make it.", or "These things have to stay out. They are guarding my bed." I think breaking out into song at that point just gets him more upset.

b) The clean up song isn't really generalizable to other transition situations (though I suppose we could make up other songs).

c) Buddy Boy considers the song "childish" and thus doesn't really resond to it like before.