Autistic children and young people can find transitions challenging for a variety of reasons, including: intolerance of uncertainty, sensory processing differences, different ways of seeing the world, social understanding differences, difficulties building relationships with new people, and executive function differences.
We recognise the key to successful transitions lies largely in robust planning within an appropriate timeframe.
- Are person centred and supportive
- Are outcomes based and futures focussed
- Recognise individual strengths and needs
- Engage children and their families
- Are reliant upon effective communication between key adults
- Promote the development of independence.
So, let’s look at some key ways we can support Autistic children and young people to make transitions successful.
Best Practice Autism and Social Communication Strategies
- Key staff to observe/visit the pupil in their current class/school.
- The pupil to visit their new classroom/school multiple times, at different times of the day, generally starting when no other pupils are present, and be introduced to adults, the environment, and resources.
- Where possible/appropriate, invite the pupil to visit the school on an INSET day in September to see their new classroom (10 mins max) set up for the new term.
- Alongside the pupil, create a visual transition booklet/PowerPoint of information about their new class/school/staff which can be taken home and re-visited during the summer holiday.
- It may be useful to support children and young people’s social understanding through the use of social stories or social articles for older pupils. For example, a story that explains the routine of the day, the environment, why we go to school or expectations of on the environment.
Resources and Environment
- Ensure the pupil’s favourite activities and familiar resources are available where possible. Ensure the pupil knows when, where and how, they can access these.
- For secondary pupils, consider what support the young person needs to support their independence such as visual reminders and prompts, support with money and making choices in the cafeteria, early arrival and queue passes, designated seats in their classrooms, or a buddy to move from class to class with.
- Consider whether a quiet space/workstation is needed. This could be within the classroom, but for some pupils, may need to be in another area.
- Consider providing opportunities for a daily ‘check in’ with a familiar adult to share changes to the day or any anxieties the pupil may have about their day.
- Provide visual supports for example timetables, map of school, labelled resources, task plans, order prompts, choices for regulation activities.
- Consider the pupil’s sensory needs in relation to the environment; what adaptations and adjustments may be needed, e.g. leaving lessons slightly early to avoid busy corridors, a quieter place for lunch, a safe space to use if they become overwhelmed, adaptations/building familiarity with PE kit and uniform.
- Does the child have a sensory profile that could be shared? If not, current staff and parents could be asked to complete one. An example is available on the West Sussex County Council Local Offer – https://westsussex-local-offer.s3.amazonaws.com/public/system/attachments/1116/original/NEW_Sensory_Toolkit.pdf
- Spend time ensuring you have obtained the child or young person’s voice as part of the planning process. What is important to them? What do they like? What do they dislike? Have they got any worries around transition? What do they feel would support them best?
- Offer sessions for parents/carers of pupils with SEND to meet and familiarise themselves with key staff.
- Work closely with feeder settings/ schools to provide phased transition opportunities for pupils with significant additional needs. Discuss what works well in the prior setting/ school and consider how this could be replicated in the new school.
The Autism and Social Communication Team can provide further advice and support around individual pupils who are going to be transitioning to another setting.
Our CARM request form can be found on Tools for Schools – https://schools.local-offer.org/team-around-the-school/services-supporting-schools-and-settings-v2/autism-and-social-communication-team-asct/