Transitions can be exciting and can provide positive opportunities when appropriate understanding, planning and supports are in place. However, they can also be stressful for the autistic learner.
Transitions can therefore have an impact on the family or on those who care for the child or young person.
There are numerous types of transition that occur throughout the day, the school term, the year and across the lifespan. It is not always the major transitions that have the most impact on autistic learners, but all transitions need to be considered and planned for where possible. At the very least, coping with transition needs to be recognised by practitioners as a potential for increase in stress for learners and their families. Effective and supportive family engagement is a very important and valuable part of supporting transitions.
Effective communication and positive relationships
Although the time it takes to establish the most effective methods of communication between home and school can vary, supporting a child centred approach which also promotes family engagement will be worthwhile. The agreed methods of communication will require revisiting as time progresses to make sure they are still the most appropriate and effective.
Effective family engagement supports autistic learners. Families know their children best and are extremely important partners in the team around their child in early learning centres and in schools. Families should be encouraged to feel:
- Welcome in their child’s learning community or the early years centre or school community their child is about to join
- They can participate in and contribute to their child’s learning journey
- That their views are respected and included
- They (along with all other parents) have and are supported to have opportunities to be involved in the decision-making process of the school to share the autistic voice and perspective. For example, parent participation groups, parent councils, consultation on school/local authority policies and guidelines.
Supporting the development of effective parental engagement can help reduce a sense of isolation and promote a more inclusive approach which recognises the skills, knowledge and understanding that is held by the family and their child.
Some local authorities have staff whose roles are focused on supporting family engagement; these staff may be able to provide advice to schools when they are evaluating the effectiveness of their family engagement.
Local support groups maybe a source of advice for early years and childcare settings and schools when evaluating the effectiveness of transitions for their families.