Change Can Be Hard! 7 Tips for Students
Change can truly be hard, even as capable adults, so it is not surprising that it is even more difficult for kids. Add on some communication difficulties, sensory problems, and a struggle that is already in place to make sense of a world with rules that are not understood, and it is no wonder that some of our kids have meltdowns when there is a change. Read along for 7 tips for students who need helping dealing with change.
In the northeast, spring can be a time of very visible change. In therapy, I like to make use of this to help my students understand what the word ‘change’ means in a non-threatening context. It helps them to see that some changes can be positive, and handled, to help them make a bridge to coping with less welcomed changes.
I’m sharing some photos of activities that are well-loved and well used to let you see an example. The bottom left photo is an activity from a very old Sesame Street magazine. My students just loved it and learned that change can be fun! If you know about current places to get these types of activities, please comment with your resource. If they aren’t available, I might give a try at making some because they work so well for eliciting this language!
7 Tips to Deal with Change
A Good Book
I always try to start with a good book. One I love is White Rabbit Color Change by Alan Baker, which can be found as a read aloud on YouTube. Mine has been adapted and models the vocabulary ‘change.’
Next you need a good hands on activity! If you have a small caterpillar and a butterfly stuffed animal set, follow the picture directions to make a fun hands on activity! You just need a paper towel tube, scissors and tape to make it.
- Cut the paper towel tube in half lengthwise.
- Cut the tube in half across the width.
- Tape the pieces back together to make a cocoon.
- Hide the butterfly inside.
- Push the caterpillar into the cocoon and watch the change!
Adapt a Worksheet
How about turning a worksheet into an activity? I love this one adapted from a Frank Schaffer worksheet where they can change a picture scene of winter to one of spring by placing the new scenery on top. To play this game, the students need to request which picture they want to change! Requesting a change may be a new experience for some of our kids, but it is functional for them to use when they don’t like something that is going on.
A Little Sabotage
A follow-up activity is to have them color the picture afterward, but sabotage the situation by giving them the wrong color or the kind of marker/crayon/colored pencil they prefer the least. Prompt use of the word ‘change.’ “Oh, you didn’t want blue? You want to change the color?”
For older kids, it is fun to use silly pictures. After they identify what is wrong in the picture, have them explain how it should be changed to make it better.
How about a card game? Matching games with pictures of natural changes also work. Changing caterpillars to cocoons to butterflies and solid (snowman) to liquid (water) are common examples.
Some Real Life
These games can also lead to a discussion of changes kids like versus changes they don’t like. Start with the less personal examples, like cold weather versus warm weather, and then move to examples from during the school day.
Think about bringing in possible negative changes:
- schedule changes
- teachers being absent
- fire drills
- disappointments over trips being canceled
- lunch menu suddenly changing to the least favorite food
- no recess
- anything you know could be difficult for your students
Be sure to include positive changes:
- teacher deciding ‘no homework’
- a birthday party
- a fun special, like a performance
- the lunch menu suddenly changing to your favorite food
- getting an award or prize
- anything special that happens at your school
When students have the language to think and talk about change in positive as well as negative ways, it is a necessary stepping stone to having more flexible thinking and problem-solving skills to help them cope when changes occur.
What are your favorite ways to teach about change?