March 14, 2020


Summit Center Updates

Pro Tips: Resistance to Change

Children with autism often dislike changes to set routines. Some examples of change include doing things in a different order, taking an alternate route to school, eating new foods, change in clothing due to weather, and switching between activities.

Worrying about how your child is going to react or respond if an event does not go as planned can be anxiety-provoking and stressful!

Below are some strategies to help your child tolerate change in routines and activities!

Small Changes. Children with autism, especially those resistant to change, often become overwhelmed and easily stressed when faced with something new or outside of their typical routine. Due to this, children will often engage in tantrum behaviors, refusal behaviors and/or aggressive behaviors. For these children, it is important to make small changes to their routines before introducing larger changes. For example, for a child who is a selective eater and brand specific, present a very small piece of the non-preferred food as opposed to a placing a whole portion on their plate.

Once the child is comfortable and accepting small amounts, gradually increase the size of the bite/portion and reinforce tolerance of the new food. The same principle can also be applied for children who become upset with changes in their daily routine. Start by making a small change and gradually increase the number of changes you make in their daily routine once the child can cope with the small changes.

Offer Choices. Some children respond better to change when they have a choice. Choice allows the child to feel a sense of control. For example, if the weather has changed and the child becomes upset having to wear pants instead of shorts, allow the child to pick between two pairs of pants and reinforce the selection of a new clothing item. Too many choices can also be overwhelming for a child with autism. When providing choices, make sure they are specific choices and provide no more than 2 or 3 options.

Prepare Ahead of Time. Children with autism have difficulties with abrupt change. These children often do better when they know what’s going to happen ahead of time. While we cannot always anticipate change, it is recommended that families plan for the changes that they do know about in advance. Some ways include developing a social story or video to help your child understand some of the changes that might occur or how to perform a new task, provide warnings prior to transitioning to another activity and plan visits to new places prior to an event.

Reward Appropriate Behavior. It is important to provide a child with praise or small rewards when they successfully cope with unexpected changes. This will increase the likelihood that the child will engage in those coping behaviors in the future. When doing so, make sure the expectations are clear ahead of time, be consistent and follow through with providing praise and rewards when the child demonstrates flexibility and tolerance of change