Transitions can be particularly difficult for autistic people.  This can be helped by planning for predictability and seeking to reduce disrupted expectations.  All kinds of transitions happen many times a day when there are changes to a child or young person’s situation, which require an attention shift, for example, moving from concentrating on a writing activity to listening to the teacher talking.   

It is important to be aware of the many different types of transition: 

  • Throughout the school day 
  • Between home, school and other settings (e.g. after school club) 
  • Between term time and holiday time 
  • Year to year, within a familiar establishment  
  • Between establishments, e.g. ELC to Primary, or Primary to Secondary  
  • Life stage transitions, e.g. puberty, bereavement, moving house   
  • Leaving school and moving into adulthood 

Whatever the form of change and transition, all children and young people are entitled to support to enable them to gain as much as possible from the opportunities which Curriculum for Excellence can provide and also support in moving into positive and sustained destinations beyond school. 

In line with legislation, transitions should be planned well in advance.  Further information about legislative guidance can be found in the Scottish Context section of the Toolbox.  

This section provides information on how to support autistic learners, their families and school communities with transitions.  

Key strategies for transition at all stages

  • ‘Let’s not just see how it goes’ 
  • The 24 hour child 
  • Family engagement 
  • Predictability and desirability, to avoid disrupted expectations 
  • Practice and prepare 
  • Change one thing at a time 
  • Plan for unexpected change arising 
  • Use developmentally relevant visual supports 
  • Understand sensory and communication preferences and thinking style 
  • Look out for signs of anxiety and dysregulation 
  • Give time to process a change or shift of attention 
  • Effective information sharing 
  • Give adequate planning time for larger transitions 
  • Keep supports in place if they are working 
  • Make the implicit explicit 
  • Limit the amount of transitions 
  • Transfer successful strategies to new environments 

Further Information and resources

Select here to access the Professional Reflection and Planning Tool for this section.  

Autism Education Trust: Supporting learners with autism during transition:

In this film, the Autistic Young Experts explore their experiences of the school holidays: SCHOOL HOLIDAYS: GOOD OR BAD? (