Preparing for the Unexpected

Enrichment Therapies

June 1, 2017

By Tessa Lancaster, M.A., CCC-SLP

As our Iowa City area families know, ETLC recently moved to a new office in North Liberty. It has been a very exciting and busy time for all of us! While big changes, such as a move, may come with a little uncertainty for many, feelings of anxiety surrounding change may be more extreme for some of our students. For certain individuals, big changes can lead to feelings of fear or stress, and behaviors that may not be typical of that person (reduced initiation or response, meltdowns, etc.). For others, even the smallest deviation from familiar routines may lead to such feelings or behaviors.

What does ‘change’ look like?

Changes in routine that impact students can vary greatly. You might think of these changes in routine as ‘unexpected’ differences.

For some, it is the big changes that are difficult, such as: – going on a vacation to a new place – working with a new adult in the classroom or therapy room – moving to a new home or school – interacting with a new person regularly (at home, in school, in therapy) – reducing interactions with a familiar person For others, even the smallest changes are concerning, such as: – the chair that your student typically uses is gone or is in a new spot within a room – a toy that your student typically enjoys is no longer available – you enter a familiar building through an unfamiliar door – your student’s usual playtime ends earlier than he/she is used to

What can I do to prepare my student?

If you’ve experienced the meltdowns that can come with change, you know how difficult it is to watch a little one feel anxious and upset. So what can you do to minimize those reactions?

– Provide verbal warnings: For some students, giving some simple verbal warnings of an upcoming change is beneficial. For example, if you plan to eliminate a step that is part of the typical routine (e.g., no longer stopping at Grandma’s house before school), tell your child about this change in advance. If your child understands timing, give a clear picture of when this change will occur. Also, provide additional verbal reminders immediately before the change is going to happen. – Practice the new ‘routine’: Some students greatly benefit from experiencing new places or activities ahead of the ‘official’ change. If you plan to go on a vacation, show your child pictures of where you are going. If you plan to start therapy in a new building, drive your child to that facility before his/her first appointment there. Allowing the child to see a new place and the surroundings can be a great way to make the change a little bit easier. – Write and review a social story: If you aren’t sure what a ‘social story’ is, check out our previous blog post about them here. If you know an unexpected change is approaching, write your own story about the change. Add visuals that might give your child a better idea of what to expect. Then, review this story several times prior to the change taking place.

Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center has locations in the Iowa City, IA area and Des Moines, IA area. We provide individual speech-language therapy and tutoring as well as offering small group academic programs.  At Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center our passion is to help kids achieve effective communication skills and gain academic success.  Contact us for more information on how we can help your child succeed.

740 Community Drive, Unit A

North Liberty, IA 52317


5530 West Pkwy, Suite 300

Johnston, IA 50131


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