Sometimes the slightest change however insignificant you may think it is, can be debilitating for someone who struggles with something unexpected or ‘out of routine’. The effects of change can play out as increased stress and anxiety, challenging behaviour and even difficulty coping with everyday routine tasks.
Change is inevitable but can be planned for effectively most of the time – there will be moments when changes are unexpected or unavoidable but there are strategies that can be used to pre plan wherever possible. Pre warning of changes will help to prepare a person for what is about to happen that is different or out of routine.
When we expect something, we plan for it and we have a sense of control over it. We can make arrangements to have things in place to help keep things ordered and organised.
When we don’t expect something, it can be difficult to predict what might happen next, and often things feel out of control and disorganised – stress levels often rise!
We can help support someone through change by assisting in the following areas:
* provide visual supports such as timetables, schedules, cue cards and social scripts to help assist with change – allows a sense of control and develops understanding
* use timers wherever possible – they are perfect for providing a sense of certainty and to grasp the abstract concept of time (how long before the change?)
* remind the person of all the things that will stay the same – this will help to minimise the impact by identifying with ‘sameness’
* allow extra time for someone to practise before the change is about to occur so that they are better prepared for it.
* rehearse how the change might play out – role play or organise rehearsals beforehand.
* always have a back up plan – provide other alternatives to the planned change just in case or reschedule if needed.
* make sure everybody involved with the person is informed of the change and that they are all using the same strategy/support.
If we plan for change as much as possible, the impact on the person will be greatly reduced – there will be less anxiety and more opportunities to experience success!