All of us transition fromone activity to another and from one setting to another through out our dailylife. Transition is the process of stopping one activity to move on to anothernew activity, and it is a process that occurs naturally whether at home, school, playground, or workplace. It is something that occurs so frequently with orwithout our knowledge. Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), strugglemore when it comes to deviating their attention from one situation to anotheror changing from one task to another. They require well planned procedures tofacilitate smooth transition and maximize instructional time with morestructure, than their typically developing peers. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) ischaracterized by a qualitative impairment in at least two of the threefollowing areas; social interaction, communication, and restricted repetitiveand stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities (Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-IV-TR),(2000).
These characteristics along with difficulties associated withchanges in routine or environments, the need for “ sameness” and predictabilitymay also affect the fluidity with which transition occurs, for individuals withASD. Specifically, the unpredictability and uncertainty of transitionalsituations may cause anxiety for many students with ASD. Difficulties duringtransition are also affected by problems in understanding verbal directives andattending to several simultaneous stimuli or cues (Mesibov, Shea, & Schopler, 2005). More often, difficulty in transition leads to problem behaviour such asaggression, tantrums, noncompliance and self-injury, which in turnsignificantly limits an individual’s ability to complete an activityindependently across environments (Schreibman, Whalen & Stahmer, 2000).
There are several strategies toreduce transition difficulties out of which, one promising intervention forindividuals with ASD are visual strategies. One such visual strategy is the useof visual timers for reducing the need for constant adult support whileincreasing independent and smooth transition. A study carried out by Dettmer, Simpson, Myles & Ganz in 2000, revealed a significant decrease in thelatency period between the time the students were given the instruction tofinish one activity and start another activity by using visual timers. Theeffectiveness of visual supports were evaluated using single subject reversaldesigns (ABAB) and they also discovered that using a timer as a visual supportresulted in the decrease of the need for verbal and physical prompting by theinstructor.
Cohen (1998), stated that most individuals with ASD are visuallearners and not auditory learners, they require alternative communicationmethods such as visual timers to bring in more structure, routine and sequencethat 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 thestudentunderstands”. He further states that when these visual supports are usedcorrectly used, they allow the individuals with ASD the freedom to engage inlife, despite their impairments.
Visual timers are great devices tolet the students know that an activity is going to be ending and it is time toget ready for a new activity. Visual timers act as a cue to help the individualunderstand that time is running out and there is no more time allotted for the activityhe or she is doing, and its time to check the schedule to know what the nextactivity is. Concepts related to time are abstract, may be confusing, forexample 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 maybeeven more harder for individuals who have not mastered the skill of readingtime. Therefore, presenting time visually with the help of a visual timer canmake the concept of time more meaningful and worthwhile (Dettmer et al, 2000).