Changing Colors: The Blog of Spectrum Pediatrics

April 26, 2016

Tips for Transitioning To and From the Car with Your Toddler

By: Lauren Foster, OTD, OTR/L
  • Walking with your children to and from a car can be scary, especially if they tend to “run.”
  • Children with autism are more “at-risk” for wandering to/from car than other children.

Few things are scarier than seeing a child “high tail it” to the street once that car or front door opens. Many parents have reported challenges with the transition from inside the house (or grocery store, office, school, etc.) to the car and vice versa. The demands of everyday life make it nearly impossible to hold onto a child’s hand every moment you are outside. Here are a few strategies and tips to support your child to safely transition from one place to another when you are outside.

  1. children street holding handsUse visuals – Humans are visual creatures and as much as we want our children to “hear” us, we often need to use visual supports to help children understand boundaries. Some ideas include: 1) using a handprint on the inside or outside of the vehicle. That way, as children head to the car they know that they need to put their hand on their handprint; 2) use “stop” and “go” signs. Practice stopping and going with a real stop sign or green light. There are many places to practice “stop” and “go” like your home, the park, and grocery store.
  2. Give the child a “job”- Is there something the child can take into the car or house? Is the child old enough to carry groceries or help mom with a chore?
  3. You can use the child’s imagination to avoid other types of behaviors – For example, “pretend you’re an airplane and fly to the car” or “let’s be bunnies and hop to the front door”.
  4. Work with a provider – Ask a teacher, speech therapist, or occupational therapist to help develop specific strategies for your child and family.


AWAARE, The National Autism Association.

Autism Speaks, Wandering Resources;

Photo credit


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