Starting a new school or going back to school can be a daunting experience for anyone, but for those on the autism spectrum, it may be more difficult to adjust than others.
Knowing what to expect, what your day will involve and who you will be working with is really important, and can help someone on the spectrum adapt to the change and make the school move a successful one.
We’ve come up with some handy tips and tricks to help you support your child in advance of and during the change period, to make sure the transition is an exciting and stress-free experience.
Providing a plan to support your child in knowing what is going to happen at school such as a scrapbook, diary, photo album is likely to help.
Providing visuals such as: photographs, pictures, maps, will help your child in understanding what to expect and to help their ability to predict what will happen at school.
Social stories can help. The stories work best when they are made specifically for the individual. The story could be something like this:
Children go to school from ages of 5-18 years old. School days start at …. And end at …. And there are 13 weeks’ school holidays per year. School is a place to learn new things and develop new skills. Teachers help children learn. Children can sometimes be anxious about starting school. It’s ok to feel worried.
- Sharing information with the school will help your child’s individual needs to be identified and met. Don’t forget to share information with the school about any changes.
- A personal profile can help provide important information and will help staff understand your child’s likes, dislikes, preferences and support needs. A good profile will include your child’s preferred communication methods, curriculum support needs, sensory support needs and any other individual arrangements.
- Having a map of a new school and where classrooms are based can help ease anxiety.
- A timetable of what will happen, and when, helps your child to predict what will happen next.
- A checklist of items to take to school can help ensure your child has the necessary equipment to help them have a smooth day a school.
- Knowing where to go if you feel stressed or anxious can help as a coping strategy. Is there a quiet area that your child can go to?
- Does your child know who and how to ask for help?
- Prompt cards can help reduce anxiety and can help provide your child with information that can help them respond appropriately. For example: what to do if: I arrive late? I forget where to go? I need the toilet? I feel unwell?
- Is there a plan for break time? Unstructured times can increase anxiety and can be a sensory challenge. Does your child know where to go and what to do? Are there any clubs to join or buddy systems?
- Planning to visit a new classroom or school can help in getting to know the school and having a visual reference for what to expect. Looking around and meeting teaching staff and support staff such as the SENCO / pastoral care staff can help.
- Make a scrapbook or file of useful information can help provide a place for your child to check information whenever needed. This can be a useful place for regular checks so your child can have easy access to information that is set out in a meaningful way for them.
National Autistic Society
Transition Support Service for young people aged 14 and over
Tel: 0808 800 0027 website: www.autism.org.uk/transition
Autism Education Trust
Provides lots of useful resources for parents and teachers
Wirral SEND Partnership (formerly Parent Partnership)
An impartial, independent and confidential service which gives free information, advice and support about matters relating to Special Educational Needs or Disabilities (SEND) and is for parents or carers of children aged 0-25, and young people aged 16-25 with special educational needs and/or disabilities.
Person Shaped Support: (PSS)
Independent supporters who are qualified to provide free information and support to children, young people and their families during the process of obtaining an Education Health and Care Plan.
Tel 0151 702 5552 for further information.
Wirral Local Offer
Provides lots of information for families including school based information and contact numbers of people who could help: http://localofferwirral.org/