Autism Toolbox a resource for Scottish Schools

Accessibility | Default | A A A


All children and young people will experience transitions as they move through the various stages of schooling, and each transition should be understood as a process rather than an event. (Scottish Strategy for autism, 2011, pg 23)

Transitions can be a challenging time for everyone, whether we have positive expectations and look forward to making a change, or perhaps feeling worried, nervous or even frightened. Because of challenges in processing the environment, and preference for predictability, transitions can promote high levels of anxiety in pupils with autism. It can be very difficult for some pupils to imagine what might happen next and may result in unusual behaviours or responses. Staff, pupils and parents need clear information about transitions and any support requirements.

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 pupils on the spectrum but all need to be considered and planned for where possible. At the very least, coping with transition needs to be recognised as a potential for increase in stress for pupils and their families. Transitions should be planned well in advance and suggestions below might be implemented over months, or in transition from primary to secondary, secondary to future destinations, over a year.

Thnk about
  • Pupil preparation:

Preparing a pupil with autism for a transition can vary widely. Whatever the scale or complexity of the transition the most important factor is to consider the situation from the perspective of the pupil, taking account of their strengths, difficulties and past experiences. It is important to get the small things right – ‘dot the i’s, cross the t’s’.

  • Staff preparation:

It is important to prepare staff who will be working or in contact with the pupil and that they understand the pupils needs and their role in plans for support.

  • Parental Concerns:

Parent - school relationships are one of the most influential factors in successful placements. If parents feel involved and secure in what is happening, transitions for pupils are often less stressful.

  • Key transition times requiring planning and communication:

One sector to another eg Early Years to Primary/ Primary to Secondary / Secondary onward
From year to year group – staff often underestimate the challenge for some young people and can involve change of toilets, playground, cloakroom, entrance
Around different areas and activities in school
Staff changes – can be real anxiety around supply teachers
Timetable changes – eg due to options taken in secondary
Special events – residential trips, visits into and from school
Personal transitions – might be what’s going on at home, someone ill, new baby, pet died
Personal development – having to wear school uniform, at puberty, college allowing more free time

  • Essential Elements of Transition:

A positive attitude
Collaboration  eg primary- secondary- parents- professionals
Transition Plan


Learning Grid -Toolbox 2009

Toolbox 2009

Topic Resources

Go to references page

Education Scotland

Share Practice

Please contribute to the Autism Toolbox by sharing case studies or practical examples

Share now