Like many autistic children, the transition to a new class or from primary school to secondary school can be extremely daunting and cause stress, worry and panic. Whether it be adjusting to new timetables or teachers, coping with new or altered routes and environments, or the increase in pupils at school. The transition process is more challenging than ever for austic children. 

It can also be a stressful time for teachers too, as well as parents and pupils. Wondering how quickly pupils will adapt, trying to establish what extra support will be needed and thinking of ways to manage classroom disruptions.

A recent study by Aspris showed that 71% of autistic children attend mainstream schools, with some neither fully educated nor equipped to support their additional needs.The study highlighted the need for “predictable environments with structure and high levels of routine along with packages of social learning and interaction.”

The need for predictable environments is echoed by authors Debby Elley and Gareth D. Morewood’s latest book: “Championing Your Autistic Teen at Secondary School: Getting the Best from Mainstream Settings”, along with emphasising the importance of both schools and parents working together collaboratively.

In the book, Debby suggests “one of the best gifts you can give any child (or anyone, for that matter) is preparation. Visits and photographs are vital – as well as getting a timetable as early as you can.”

How you can help as a teacher

Transition to another class

  • Arrange for the pupil(s) to visit their new classroom ahead of time 
  • Schedule a one-to-one meeting between the pupil(s) and their future new teacher
  • Provide a comprehensive handover to the new teacher about the relevant pupil(s) including the additional support required, their likes/dislikes, triggers and learnings on how they like to be taught

Transitioning to a new school (primary to secondary)

  • Identify pupils ahead of time who will require extra support, ideally in the previous academic year
  • If possible, try to request information about the pupil to better plan for aiding their transition
  • Try to tailor and personalise the transition process as much as possible for the individual pupil(s)
  • Arrange for the pupil(s) to visit the school ahead of time to get familiar with the new environment and meet with their new teaching staff
  • Send out a welcome pack prior to the start of term. This could include images of the school/classrooms, a map of the school and photos and a short biography of the relevant teachers
  • Set up a ‘buddy scheme’ for pupils during their first few weeks
  • Speak to the pupil(s) parents or carers about their child’s needs and to listen to any concerns they may have. This can also provide an insight into how the child behaves in certain situations and what subjects they may struggle with to allow you to foreplan

How you can help as a parent

  • Speak to your child to identify potential worries or concerns and discuss what measures you can take to help alleviate these concerns
  • Arrange for you and your child to visit their new school and to meet their new teaching staff. Encourage them to take some pictures of their new school to start to get familiar with the new environment after their visit
  • Book a call or arrange a meeting to discuss your child’s needs and concerns with their future teaching staff. Let them know your childs like and dislikes and highlight any key triggers
  • Identify any current school friends who are also going to be transitioning to the same school. Encourage them to meet to talk about what they are most looking forward to at their new school
  • Empower them to build their confidence and independence
  • Highlight the positives of this new phase of your child’s life

Supporting the transition with Picturepath

Our vision here at Picturepath is to support children in managing their day; reducing stress and anxiety to create an inclusive learning environment. The Picturepath Visual Timeline is a tool recommended by paediatricians to help SEN children reduce anxiety by visualising the events of their day and mentally preparing for events – such as transitioning from primary to secondary school.

Picturepath timeline feature

Whether you’re a teacher, parent or a carer of an austic learner, you’ll help young learners feel safer in unfamiliar environments and help them get comfortable with new activities.

Parents can download the Picturepath app for free from the Apple Store or Google Play Store.

If you’re a school who’s looking to support new pupils, or if you’re a parent and want to know more about how Picturepath can support your school, speak to our team today.