10 top transition tips – smoothing the move from primary to secondary school

Transitions are on my mind at the moment as I’m busy training for my first triathlon. I’m anxious about how I’m going to manage the transition between swim, bike and run but I know that the secret is in being prepared and making sure I’ve got everything I need in the right place at the right time.

Major transitions

One of life’s major transitions – the move from primary to secondary school – is about to be faced by thousands of children around the country. It’s natural that they will all experience some level of worry and apprehension about this but for many children on the autistic spectrum this transition can be particularly difficult.

Transitions issues

Change in itself is a problem because many children with ASD find it difficult to think flexibly and so become anxious about the unknown. They will prefer to stick with the familiar routines established in primary school as they will have difficulty predicting what might happen in the new setting.

A lack of social understanding and the ability to read and understand social cues accurately mean that children with autism may not know how to behave or respond in the many new social situations they will encounter in secondary school.

Add sensory processing difficulties to this mix and it’s easy to see why children on the spectrum can quickly become overwhelmed by the sensory stimulii of this new environment.

Preparation is key

When my own autistic son faced the transition from his small and familiar primary school to a large comprehensive I tried to prepare him as much as possible beforehand. By investing time in preparation now using some of the tips and tricks we’ve listed below, we hope you’ll be able to make those first days and weeks in the new school a lot less worrying for you and your child.

The Autism Education Trust website has a fantastic Transition Toolkit booklet you can download. Although primarily aimed at schools, I found the School Provision and Transition Checklists at the back of the booklet a very useful resource to ensure the right systems and supports were in place.

Top 10 transition tips

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Make a map of the school

1. Make a map of the layout of the school with photographs of important places e.g. school canteen, main hall, classrooms

2. Try to obtain photographs of key staff particularly the teaching assistants that are going to support during lessons

3. Establish a link with a member of staff who can act as a mentor and home-school liaison. Set up a home-school book to pass on information about any worries/concerns or any relevant developments at home.

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Get used to a homework routine

4. Get used to a homework routine in advance of the new start. Start simply with a 10-15 minute task at a regular time each evening in a quiet environment.

5. Make a visual timetable showing the school day to make lesson order & break times more predictable.

6. Practice the journey to and from school, making sure the child knows the location of bus stops, road-crossings, meeting points or anything else significant on their journey.

7. Familiarise your child with the new uniform and deal with any irritating seams or labels.

8. Practice packing the correct items for school (TomTag is perfect for this!)

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Countdown calendar

9. Use a calendar to count down the days to starting the new school

10. Create a personal profile written with help of your child to include all the information new staff should know about them

 

June news

  • Our first trip this month will take us to Stafford visiting the NAS branch support meeting there this week to talk to the group about TomTag and how it might help their children.
  • Anyone visiting Kidz South in Reading should pop along to the Disabled Living information table where they will be able to find a supply of our leaflets.
  • Next stop, on 19th June, will be Lincoln for the Dyslexia Guild Annual Summer Conference. We are particularly looking forward to this as without Dyslexia Action, we might never have had the idea for TomTag and we wouldn’t be here today! Hoping to wow them with what we’ve acheived from taking part in one of their courses.
  • On the same day, Clare will be a delegate at the Wordswell, Towards a Positive Future Conference where we are also conference sponsors featuring in the conference booklet.
  • Big thanks to Rosy&Bo who will be taking TomTag with them to sell at the Autism Show in London on 13th and 14th June. Good luck Rosy & Bo!
  • Final stop on June 27th 10am – 2pm – we are venturing even further afield and will be at Devizes Corn Exchange for the Wiltshire Parent Carer Council SENDIS Event. See you there!

April and May news

In April, we celebrated Autism Awareness Month with a series of blogs from our personal experiences of living with autism.

Firstly we touched on helpful strategies for coping with anxieties in Autism – understanding and managing anxiety, moved on to tips to develop conversation and pragmatic skills in Waiting for others to come to you? and finished off with issues of sensory sensitivity in Sensory strategies for personal care.

We hope you enjoyed these insights and found them useful.

 

In May, we were thrilled to be invited to exhibit with Disability North at their first ever Paediatric Open Day in Newcastle. What a friendly bunch they all were!