What are “Transactional Supports” & Why is it Critical for Social-Emotional Development?

Transactional Supports

Transactional Supports are part of the SCERTS Model developed by Barry M. Prizant (author of my favorite book Uniquely Human), et al. SCERTS stands for Social Communication Emotional Regulation Transaction Support. The SCERTS model is a framework/guide for addressing emotional regulation and social communication in children.

SCERTS follows the strength-based model and was created after 25 years of research. It combines practices from different therapies such as ABA, discrete trial, DIR Floortime – it strives to create authentic progress and child-initiated communication. It is highly successful and used in schools across the world including Canada, the US, Japan, China, etc. The New Zealand Ministry of Education has even adopted this framework for all children entering early intervention.

The SCERTS model understands that the problems are not solely with the child.  Therefore, it includes interpersonal supports, learning supports, family support, and professional support.


This post is part of a 13 part series. Each post in the series will explain an evidence-based strategy used by professionals for managing behavior with children on the autism spectrum. Each part of this series will contain a table of contents so you can easily navigate to the different strategies.

Table of Contents:

  1. Introduction 
  2. Strategy 1: Build a Relationship
  3. Strategy 2: Individualize Motivation
  4. Strategy 3: Observe, Listen, then Join
  5. Strategy 4: Optimize Language
  6. Strategy 5: The Premack Principal
  7. Strategy 6: Basic Redirect
  8. Strategy 7: Breaks
  9. Strategy 8: Picture Rehearsal
  10. Strategy 9: Add Structure at Home
  11. Strategy 10: Teach Independence with Prompting
  12. Strategy 11: Transactional Supports
  13. Strategy 12: Add Structure to the Learning Environment 

What Does Transactional Support Mean?

The SCERTS Model and Transactional Support / 12 Behavior Strategies for Children on the Autism Spectrum / #Autism #AutismSpectrum #SpecialEd #ADHDKids #SocialEmotionalSkills #SocialCommunication #ChildhoodDevelopment

The term transactional support means the development and implementation of supports to help partners respond to the child’s needs and interests, modify and adapt the environment, and provide tools to enhance learning

To put it simply, TS covers anything used to help others understand and respond to the child’s needs better. Transactional supports are for families, teachers, therapists, etc.

This includes picture communication, written schedules, and sensory supports. Specific plans are also developed to provide educational and emotional support to families, and to foster teamwork among professionals.

So if this 13 part series has helped you better understand your child’s behavior and how to respond and help them – then this series provided transactional support for you.

Example TS – Within Task

Team Communication

The most important support there is for the team – is communication. Everyone involved in your child’s care should all take time to communicate with each other. Everyone has areas of expertise – from OTs, SLPs, ABA therapists, teachers, teacher’s aids, parents, and anyone else. Team communication teaches everyone how to interact and intervene with your child in a meaningful way that may fall outside of their area of expertise. This benefits the child is all settings .

For example, if your occupational therapist knows a great technique for helping your child transition – yet your child struggles with transitions at school – communicating that strategy to the teacher and aid can help both them and your child be more successful in school.

When multiple disciplines are combined creating one consistent plan, your child will see the most progress. Furthermore, the consistency reinforces to your child how to respond to interactions when they are the same in all settings.

Why is it so important?

Aside from the fact that it’s beneficial to your child’s social-emotional development, there’s another reason why transactional support is so important.

Children with autism are going to grow up to be autistic adults. As autistic adults, they’re going to be a part of not just your family, but the community as well.

If you speak to any adult members of the autistic community – often referring to themselves as Aspies or Auties – you will soon learn that nearly all of them share one similar feeling. They feel like the “neurotypical world” expects them to change who they are and learn how to “act normal” to fit into this world.

This feeling often stems from how other therapies have traditionally taught autistic children. For example, ABA and DTT both focus on training children to give specific adult-directed responses to various situations. SCERTS, on the other hand, strives for “authentic progress” – which is the ability to learn social communication and emotional regulation skills that they can spontaneously apply in whichever way they feel relevant, in a variety of situations.

Transactional support can help change that feeling. It means that we can adjust our actions a bit too and make this world fit and accept everyone.

This quote from Jim Sinclair, sums it up eloquently:
If you would help me, don’t try to change me to fit your world. Don’t try to confine me to some tiny part of the world that you can change to fit me. Grant me the dignity of meeting me on my terms – recognize that we are equally alien to each other and that my ways of being are not merely damaged versions of yours.

Continue to: Strategy 12 – Structured Learning

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