Tips from experience and good practice!
As Early Years/Early Primary practitioners we need to be empathic, flexible, proactive and very creative! The child ultimately comes first but it is important to be holistic and consider the team around the child.
- Have meetings with parents and visit the child in the pre-school setting to get to know them and arrange extra transition opportunities.
- Begin planning for the child’s individual needs well before they begin in Primary.
- Apply for funding (if required) as soon as you are aware of the child’s level of need. It may take a long time so don’t delay!
- Prepare for the transition and allocate autism trained and experienced staff to support the needs of the child. Young autistic children are often quite different from the standard profile and it is unfair on both the child and staff member if they do not have training and/or experience.
- Make mutually supportive links with the child’s current setting.
- Invite staff and parent/carers to an informal meeting to exchange and offer information. A planned, structured, successful and smooth transition benefits all.
- Good transitions should start early. Start the school visits as soon as possible in Summer term.
- If needed offer extra settling in time in September for the child but be aware this should ultimately be for the benefit of the child rather than the adults.
- It can be very beneficial for the child to have short and regular visits to the environment after the current Primary children have left. Familiarising with the environment and staff is vital for most autistic children and will have great benefit.
- Repeat again early in the new school year on a PD day, to re-familiarise the child.
- Start the autistic child early in the term so that the environment is low stimulus and they are de-sensitised before the environment becomes more hectic and overstimulating. Sometimes settings wait until all the other children have transitioned but this is often not helpful for the autistic child as the environment is over-stimulating and can understandably trigger distressed behaviour in the child because of the sensory environment. It is also important to support families who may need respite after a very long and potentially distressing summer.
- Social Story transition booklets are very helpful over the summer holiday for the child and parent to refer to as 6 weeks is a long time in a 4-year old’s life!
My teacher, Sarah
- Ensure the child has an object /visual/photo timetable ready for them to support their understanding of their day, this could save a lot of challenges! However, make sure it is at their level of development as we often use line drawings/pictures from publishers and the child is not ready to understand them and needs objects or photographs. If they are only there for an hour initially make sure the visual timetable only refers to that time and not the whole day etc.
Transition passports are also very helpful so that all staff know about the child.
- You can find an Autism Transition Toolkit for all ages at http://www.learningsupportcentre.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Autism-Education-Trust-Transition-Toolkit.pdf
Finally, as I stated at the beginning of the article be empathic, flexible, proactive , creative and really appreciate the strengths of the child as well as being concerned about their difficulties ! Enjoy because autistic children are refreshingly different ?