Tips for School Transitions for Students on the Autism Spectrum

Students on the autism spectrum often have struggles with change and transitions. It is crucial that we stop, think, and take the time to prepare them, their families, and each other for the transitions ahead. Proactive steps taken NOW will have an immediate, as well as, a LASTING benefit for the student.

Proactive… Individualized… Organized

Above and beyond the information completed for all transitioning students:

  • What additional information does the new team need to know?
  • What is the best way to collaborate with the receiving team?

Consider the student's:

  • strengths
  • interests
  • communication
  • social
  • sensory
  • challenges

What do you wish you were told?

Visual supports:

  • What are the visual strategies that have been helpful (e.g., visual schedule, visual timer)?
  • Consider sharing their current and personalized visuals with receiving team (e.g., social stories, power cards).
  • Consider what new components or pictures might need to be added. Could those be prepared now so the family can begin exposure to the student over the summer?
  • Would social stories, pictures, or videos of the new building, classroom(s), and staff be beneficial?

Physical environment:

  • What is in the student's physical environment that has been helpful (e.g., visually calm classroom, near sensory workout location, away from noisy areas)?
  • Consider what the student's new environment will be and how that aligns with what has worked.

What visits could be arranged to ease the transition?

  • The receiving teacher visits current program.
  • The current teacher and student visit receiving school.
  • The student and family visit new school.
  • Could a virtual visit be arranged (e.g., face time, flip camera movies)?

Social needs:

  • Is there a peer who could assist?
  • Could a familiar peer be strategically placed in their classes?
  • How can we help the student and family know who the new staff will be?

What additional supports and/or services are needed to facilitate the transition (e.g., extra sensory workout, positive reinforcement)?

Remember, the student may be comforted to know:

  • Where will I be going?
  • How will I get there?
  • What does it look like there?
  • Who will be there?