Transition to primary school for children on the autism spectrum
Transition to school is generally regarded as a challenging time for not only the child and the family but also to staff at the new school and any significant others involved in the child’s life. Typically children on the autism spectrum work best when they have a clear routine, but by the very nature of transitioning to a new school environment, they will face changes to the physical environment, peers, teachers and other staff, expectations for learning and play, routines, processes and rules just to name a few.
Although these changes can be positive and exciting, most children on the spectrum will need additional support to overcome the potential difficulties in adjustment experienced during this time. Since the transition to primary school after early intervention will be the first major transition event for many children, with the potential to influence future outcomes in terms of academic outcomes, social adjustment and future transitions, it is critical to facilitate a positive experience and support the child and the family in this first step.
This project aimed to understand the transition experienced by children on the spectrum going into primary school and identify ways that this transition may be improved or supported.
At the completion of the research, consideration of the following key principles was recommended to ensure the success of a child’s transition to primary school:
- Active, early and ongoing collaboration between a range of stakeholders
- Establishing positive and respectful relationships between the children, parents, and educators
- Active preparation of the child for transition
- Assessment of school readiness
- Implementation and regular evaluation of individualised transition plans
- Facilitation of the development of the child’s skills as a learner
- Utilisation of dedicated funding and resources.
Furthermore, the project research team recommended the following key guidelines for parents and professionals to ensure a successful transition for children on the spectrum:
- Initial planning practices – a collaborative approach
- Individualised transition plans
- Active preparation
- Follow up support and evaluation
- Valsamma Eapen, University of New South Wales