TRANSITIONS IN THE SECONDARY SCHOOL
To lessen anxieties around transitions
- Transitions broken down into small, manageable steps.
- Ensuring the student has a clear, colour coded timetable. Give a copy to the student’s parents so they have the opportunity to discuss daily activities. This can help decrease anxiety about ‘what happens next’ and reduce questions. Providing the student with an additional hard copy of their timetable to stick it in their diary or schoolbag in case loose copies are lost.
- Using highlighters to colour code areas and routes between classrooms on a map of the school and colour coding textbooks and resources for curricular areas to match timetable/map if possible. This promotes personal organisation, independence and reduces anxiety about what resources are relevant for subjects/for each day.
- Having lesson aims or tasks for the lesson on the whiteboard makes the student aware of the structure of the lesson, what and how much they have to do. Giving a 5 minute warning prior to the end of class prepares for the transition. This might be a verbal signal, a visual signal or both.
- Using prompt cards to support independence in unexpected situations.They should answer 'What if....? e.g. I lose my dinner money / I forget my PE kit, no one turns up to run me home. The instructions remind the young person what to do in a particular situation and should help reduce anxiety. The prompt cards should be specific to the individual. Review the use of the cards regularly and add if other situations have arisen.
- Telling students what will happen in clear, precise language if an unexpected event occurs. Many are reassured by knowing what will happen after the unexpected event, e.g.. "After the fire drill, we will return to the classroom."
- Using a ‘surprise’ or 'change' card, with previously chosen symbol, at times within the class timetable to support the young person cope with changes. Using the symbol at these times you can practice change and provide support and reassurance that change can be ok. When something unexpected does occur (change of timetable / teacher) using the same symbol and language can help towards the young person recognising that change can happen and be ok.
- Giving time to pack up and transition from one class to another a few minutes earlier than others benefits some young people. This can avoid many issues related to busy, noisy corridors and allow time to organise themselves for next lesson.
- Entering an area earlier before noise builds up (e.g. lunch hall, assembly) as some children might find it hard to cope with loud noise. Gradually build up time in the noisier area.
- Making transitions predictable. This helps pupils with autism feel more secure. Provide learners with unambiguous, concrete information about:
- Where they have to be
- Who will be there
- Where they will sit/stand
- What they will be doing
- How much they have to do
- How they will know when they are finished
- What they will be doing next
- What behaviour is expected
- “What if?” scenarios (preparation for the unexpected)