All anxiety for many students with ASD. Difficulties

All of us transition from
one activity to another and from one setting to another through out our daily
life. Transition is the process of stopping one activity to move on to another
new activity, and it is a process that occurs naturally whether at home, school,
playground, workplace etc. It is something that occurs so frequently with or
without our knowledge. Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), have
greater difficulty in deviating their attention from one situation to another
or from one task to another. They require well planned routines to facilitate
smooth transition and maximize instructional time with more structure, than
their typically developing peers.

            Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is
characterized by a qualitative impairment in at least two of the three
following areas; social interaction, communication, and restricted repetitive
and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities (“Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental
disorders (DSM-IV-TR),” (2000). These characteristics along with
difficulties associated with changes in routine or environments, the need for
“sameness” and predictability may also affect the fluidity with which transition
occurs, for individuals with ASD. Specifically, the unpredictability and uncertainty
of transitional situations may cause anxiety for many students with ASD. Difficulties
during transition are also affected by problems in understanding verbal
directives and attending to several simultaneous stimuli or cues (Mesibov, Shea,
& Schopler, 2005). Often times, difficulty in transition leads to problem
behaviour such as aggression, tantrums, noncompliance and self-injury, which in
turn significantly limits an individual’s ability to complete an activity
independently across environments (Schreibman, Whalen & Stahmer, 2000).

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            There are several strategies to
reduce transition difficulties out of which, one promising intervention for
individuals with ASD are visual strategies. One such visual strategy is the use
of visual timers for reducing the need for constant adult support while
increasing independent and smooth transition. A study carried out by Dettmer,
Simpson, Myles & Ganz in 2000, revealed a significant decrease in the
latency period between the time the students were given the instruction to
finish one activity and start another activity by using visual timers. The
effectiveness of visual supports were evaluated using single subject reversal
designs (ABAB) and they also discovered that using a timer as a visual support
resulted in the decrease of the need for verbal and physical prompting by the
instructor. Cohen (1998), stated that most individuals with ASD are visual
learners and not auditory learners, they require alternative communication
methods such as visual timers to bring in more structure, routine and sequence
that they require to their daily activities. In support with above research, Hodgdon
(2000) further states that “educators can give more and more verbal directions,
but that does not mean that the

student
understands”. He further states that when these visual supports are used
correctly used, they allow the individuals with ASD the freedom to engage in
life, despite their impairments.

            Visual timers are great devices to
let the students know that an activity is going to be ending and it is time to
get ready for a new activity. Visual timers act as a cue to help the individual
understand that time is running out and there is no more time allotted for the activity
he or she is doing, and its time to check the schedule to know what the next
activity is. Concepts related to time are abstract, may be confusing, for
example statements like, “we will be done in a minute”, “just a second left” etc.
usually cannot be interpreted literally by students on the spectrum. It maybe
even more harder for individuals who have not mastered the skill of reading
time. Therefore, presenting time visually with the help of a visual timer can
make the concept of time more meaningful and worthwhile (Dettmer et al, 2000).