The journey from primary to secondary school is daunting for all children but for those with additional needs is can be completely overwhelming.
Therefore the planning and coordination of this transition, in the best interest of the child, will be time well spent.
Teachers and SENCOs should be supporting parents with this transition.
Transitions for children with autism generally can be very stressful and cause anxiety for individuals.
The two environments are clearly very different, with secondary schools having a higher number of students on roll with an emphasis on relative ability and competition rather than effort and improvement. Relationships are diluted. Gone is the primary teacher who teaches every subject and has a very individual relationship with each child. This is replaced with an often 'less personal' approach as students have a range of teachers.
In addition, students with autism who often prefer a low sensory stimulation and routine find the chaotic mainstream environment overwhelming.
In order to make this transition successful we need to work collaboratively. SENCOs should provide bespoke transition plans for school and students . The focus should be to meeting each individuals needs throughout the process. This may include :-
- transition booklet containing photos of key staff and areas of the school which will be relevant to the student.
- individual visits to the school and more than one, perhaps with school staff and then with parents.
Parents should be involved in planning and given enough time to get to know the school staff and the environment that their child is going to go to.
Schools need to remember that each student with autism is an individual. Time should be taken to get to know each student. To understand their anxieties and to address them individually.
Parents should explore with the SENCO the training that staff have receivied on autism awareness so that you can feel secure that your child will feel part of an inclusive school community that is empathic and understanding.