For children and adults with autism, unforeseen changes, or transitions, can be especially difficult and can sometimes lead to tantrums, meltdowns, and other potentially disruptive behavior.
The term transition encompasses a multitude of changes that range from small disruptions to daily life to more significant changes, such as the move from elementary to middle to high school or the phases of development from childhood to adolescence to adulthood. For children with autism, most changes of environment are transitions. Significant events, like moving to a new school or community, can prove challenging for persons with autism, their families, their teachers, and other service providers. Even events that might be routine for some children, such as haircuts, visits to the doctor, or taking a different route home from school, can produce stress and anxiety.
Military families that have children with autism face all the emotions and challenges that accompany the diagnosis compounded by the realities and transitions of military service: war, extended family separation, frequent moves, varying access to specialized healthcare, and other stressors that complicate and often work against effective treatment for children with autism. There are strategies and techniques that are helpful in managing transitions on any scale. This section provides information on dealing with some of the more common transition challenges for children with autism, regardless of setting, and other challenges that are more unique to military families as a result of one or both parents’ service in uniform.