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Inclusive school practices supporting the primary to secondary transition for autistic children: pupil, teacher, and parental perspectives



Purpose: The primary to secondary school transition can have a significant and long-lasting impact on young people. Autistic children are particularly vulnerable to negative transition experiences, however, there is a lack of research examining effective practices and provision for these pupils. This case study involves a mainstream secondary school in the South of England, which has a dedicated Learning Support base. The aim was to collect qualitative data on experiences of the primary to secondary school transition from multiple stakeholders. Design/methodology/approach: A photovoice activity followed by a semi-structured interview was conducted with five autistic pupils aged 12-16 years; semi-structured interviews were also carried out with six parents, and four teachers. Findings: Five key themes emerged from the data in relation to effective practices: Inclusion, Child-centred approach, Familiarisation, Visual Supports, and Communication and Consistency. Research limitations/implications: As a small-scale case study there are limitations regarding generalisation. However, this research illuminates transition practices that are experienced as effective by autistic children, their families and teachers. Practical implications: Practical implications related to each of these themes are highlighted. These implications are important in the context of the mandatory responsibilities of schools in England to include the voices of children and young people with special educational needs in decisions about their education. Originality/value: The findings challenge a rights-based approach to inclusion and illustrate the importance of a needs-based approach which appropriately recognises and understands what autism means for children, their families, and the teachers who support them. <br/
Accepted for publication in Advances in Autism, 23rd July 2018 Author accepted
version - DOI 10.1108/AIA-05-2018-0016
Published version:
Inclusive school practices supporting the primary to secondary transition for
autistic children: pupil, teacher, and parental perspectives
Keri Hoy1,3, Sarah Parsons*1,3, Hanna Kovshoff2,3
* For correspondence:
1. The Centre for Research in Inclusion, Southampton Education School, University
of Southampton, UK
2. The Centre for Innovation in Mental Health (CiMH), Psychology, University of
Southampton, UK
3. The Autism Community Research Network @ Southampton,
Purpose: The primary to secondary school transition can have a significant and long-
lasting impact on young people. Autistic children are particularly vulnerable to negative
transition experiences, however, there is a lack of research examining effective
practices and provision for these pupils. This case study involves a mainstream
secondary school in the South of England, which has a dedicated Learning Support base.
The aim was to collect qualitative data on experiences of the primary to secondary
school transition from multiple stakeholders.
Design/methodology/approach: A photovoice activity followed by a semi-structured
interview was conducted with five autistic pupils aged 12-16 years; semi-structured
interviews were also carried out with six parents, and four teachers.
Findings: Five key themes emerged from the data in relation to effective practices:
Inclusion, Child-centred approach, Familiarisation, Visual Supports, and Communication
and Consistency.
Research limitations/implications: As a small-scale case study there are limitations
regarding generalisation. However, this research illuminates transition practices that
are experienced as effective by autistic children, their families and teachers.
Practical implications: Practical implications related to each of these themes are
highlighted. These implications are important in the context of the mandatory
responsibilities of schools in England to include the voices of children and young people
with special educational needs in decisions about their education.
Originality/value: The findings challenge a rights-based approach to inclusion and
illustrate the importance of a needs-based approach which appropriately recognises
and understands what autism means for children, their families, and the teachers who
support them.
The transition from primary to secondary school, which takes place in the UK around
the age of 11 years, is one of the most important and challenging educational transitions
that pupils go through, and can lead to considerable stress and anxiety (Zeedyk et al.,
2003). Secondary schools tend to be large, holding over three times as many pupils on
average compared to primary schools (Department for Education (DfE), 2017a). This
can be overwhelming, particularly for pupils on the autism spectrum, who may have
heightened sensitivity to sensory stimuli (American Psychiatric Association (APA),
2013). Within secondary school, pupils typically have subject lessons with different
teachers and classrooms; new routines containing multiple changes and transitions
throughout the day can be especially difficult for children on autism the autism
spectrum (Fortuna, 2014). Further stress and anxiety can arise from expectations of
increased independence at secondary school, which autistic children may struggle to
fulfil (Plimley & Bowen, 2007).
Ineffective and unsupported transitions between schools can negatively impact on a
child’s development and academic achievement (Fortuna, 2014). Consequently,
transition planning is particularly important for children with special educational needs
and disabilities (SEND; DfE / Department of Health (DoH), 2015). With autism spectrum
diagnoses on the rise (Hansen, Schendel & Parner, 2015) and 70% of pupils on the
autism spectrum educated in mainstream schools in the UK (DfE, 2017b), there is a
significant need to identify the school practices that may support more successful
transitions to secondary school.
Tobin et al., (2012) acknowledge that the increased demands on flexibility and social
communication during secondary school can be especially challenging for autistic
pupils. They discuss how the children’s strong preference for consistency can make
adapting to new routines difficult. Despite this, there is a lack of empirical evidence
focusing on the specific difficulties they face. This conclusion is supported by Makin, Hill
and Pellicano (2017) who discussed how although autistic children are known, mainly
anecdotally, to be vulnerable during the transition, little is known about the factors
which cause this difficulty. Their longitudinal study assessed 15 autistic children in
primary school through to secondary school. These pupils reported generally negative
experiences, involving a lack of support from both their primary and secondary schools,
as well as concerns about bullying and difficulties making friends (also Topping, 2011;
Dann, 2011).
There are also some studies that report less negative transition experiences for autistic
children. For example, Mandy et al., (2016) explored experiences of transition through
standardised questionnaires assessing levels of psychopathology, adaptive
functioning, and peer victimisationin 28 pupils on the autism spectrum, aged 11
years. Parent-, teacher- and self-assessments were conducted during the final year of
primary school and the first term of secondary school. Mandy et al., (2016) found that
bullying levels decreased across the transition, whilst levels of ‘psychopathology’ and
adaptive functioningremained consistent i.e. they did not decrease. There are
limitations of this study, not least the overwhelming focus on difficulties and challenges,
as well as the fact that the social and educational processes which occurred during the
transition were not directly investigated. Nevertheless, the findings suggest that the
transition to secondary school may not always be an unduly negative experience. Other
authors also report some positive experiences within small samples of children (Neal &
Frederickson, 2016; Fortuna, 2014). Crucially, however, Mandy et al., (2016; p.11)
acknowledge that the reduction in bullying found between primary and secondary
‘…could reflect proactive and successful strategies adopted by the secondary
schools in this study. This possibility should be specifically investigated, as
knowledge about any ecological processes that reduce bullying of people with
ASD would be valuable for informing good educational practice’.
This comment clearly highlights the need to examine school-based practices that may
support successful transitions from primary to secondary school. Makin et al., (2017)
identify that additional planning is key to successful transitioning, and suggest
interventions need to be applied before, during, and after the transition to modify the
school environment to best suit pupilseveryday needs. The question remains about
what modifying the environment may look like in practice in terms of meeting the needs
of autistic individuals, and parents (Stoner et al., 2007). The present study is, therefore,
interested in illuminating specific practices that are implemented in the primary to
secondary school transition that are identified as enabling and positive from the
perspectives of the key stakeholders involved: parents, teachers, and of course the
pupils themselves. This study was also interested in finding out more about the
practices that could be developed and improved in the light of feedback from these key
stakeholders. The specific research questions addressed were:
(1) What are the views and experiences of young autistic people about their
transition from primary to secondary school?
(2) What are the views of parents and teachers about the transitions of young
autistic people from primary to secondary school?
(3) What do these views and experiences identify as the effective practices that
support transitions, and the practices that could be developed or improved further?
Context and epistemology
This research was conducted under the umbrella of the Autism Community Research
Network @ Southampton (ACoRNS; This is an education-
focused initiative that aims to understand more about effective practices for supporting
children and their families through transitions and trajectories. ACoRNS is a
collaborative partnership between academics at the University of Southampton, and
schools and colleges in the local community that span the statutory stages of schooling,
and includes mainstream and specialist schools. The research agenda, with the views
and voices of children and young people at the core, is co-constructed with these
community partners to ensure that research and practice are mutually informing and of
direct practical relevance and benefit (Parsons et al., 2013). Fundamentally, the ACoRNS
partnership operates from an epistemological position of knowledge co-construction,
rather than knowledge transfer or exchange (Guldberg, Parsons, Porayska-Pomsta, &
Keay-Bright, 2017). Such an approach seeks to move beyond traditional assumptions
about whose knowledge is prioritised in research and, therefore, how such knowledge
should be captured, represented and disseminated in developing evidence-based
practices (Milton, 2012). This approach reflects the need for an ethical shift in autism
research that is more inclusive and participatory (Pellicano, Dinsmore & Charman,
2014), and in autism education research that places schools at the centre of the agenda
(Parsons & Kasari, 2013).
In line with this collaborative approach, this project adopted a single case study design
focusing on one mainstream secondary school in the South of England. By examining
data at the micro-level, and drawing on multiple perspectives, case studies help explain
complexities which may not be captured through experimental or survey designs
(Thomas, 2015). Data is collected within the context of its use, which is vital if research
and practice are to inform each other (Parsons et al., 2013). The school was actively
involved in planning the research, and generating ideas for the questions they would
like answered. Additionally, this study drew upon the multiple perspectives of
stakeholders in line with Fortuna’s (2014; p.189) recommendation:
Having the viewpoint of all participants in the transition process parents,
pupils and teachers is quite rare; yet all three play a major role in the transition
process, and need to be involved in any future research.’
School and Participants
This school has a number of pupils with severe and complex needs, including autism,
and supports those needs in a Learning Support (LS) department within the school. The
LS department supports pupils in a range of ways, with some spending a majority of
their time within the dedicated base and others using it on a less frequent basis and
spending more time within the rest of the school. Purposive sampling was used: the
Assistant Head teacher selected pupils who were diagnosed as being on the autism
spectrum, according to school records, and who he felt would be willing to participate.
Five pupils chose to participate (four males, one female), aged 12-16 years. Three of
these pupils are in the LS, whilst two are in mainstream lessons but receive additional
support from LS staff, such as weekly one-to-one sessions. Six parents agreed to
participate; five mothers, and one pupil’s grandmother who was their legal guardian.
Four staff members (two males, two females), including teachers, the Special
Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo), and Assistant Head teacher were recruited on
the basis that they worked closely with these pupils and knew them well.
Methods and procedure
A photovoice methodology was adopted with pupil participants to provide structure
and visual support during their interviews. Carnahan (2006, p.44) defined photovoice
as ‘an educational action research tool that embraces visual communication through
photography’. Asking participants to take photographs themselves can lead to more
meaningful participation by actively engaging them (Povee, Bishop & Roberts, 2014),
and reducing traditional power imbalances within research (Ha & Whittaker, 2016).
Four aspects of transitions were also proposed for participants to think about with
regards to what they liked/disliked, and what support worked well/could be improved,
based on the school’s interests and existing research literature:
(1) Moving between different classrooms: Mandy et al (2015) argued this involves a
major ecological shift, increasing demands on the child’s social, intellectual, and
organisational capacities;
(2) Having different teachers for different subjects: this may be difficult for children
who find routine changes challenging (Neal & Frederickson, 2016).
(3) Break and lunch times: the larger numbers of pupils in secondary school can be
overwhelming for children with autism due to sensory sensitivities (Makin et al.,
(4) Friends and other pupils: positive social relationships have been identified as
key factors in determining the success of a transition (Dillon & Underwood,
2012; Peters & Brooks, 2016).
In the first session, pupils were individually asked to walk around the school with the
researcher, and take photographs that showed what they liked/disliked about the
school, including objects or people that helped/did not help them to settle in during the
transition to school. This took approximately 15 minutes. A second session was
conducted on the same or following day. Pupils met individually with the researcher,
and were asked to look at their printed photographs and write ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ on each
one, and to say more about why they took each picture. These photographs remained in
front of participants throughout the interview so they could be used as prompts where
necessary. This session lasted between 9 and 19 minutes.
Semi-structured interviews were carried out with parents and teachers to explore their
views and experiences about transitions, including the four key areas summarised
above. Questions explored what had helped, what had hindered, fears and concerns, and
strategies used to overcome these. Pupil, parent and staff interviews were conducted
face-to-face in a quiet meeting room within the school, and were voice recorded (with
permission) using a Dictaphone. Parent interviews lasted 12-23 minutes, and staff
interviews 10-30 minutes each.
Ethical approval was gained from the relevant Faculty Ethics and Research Governance
Committee at the University of Southampton (Ref# 31030). Adult participants received
information sheets explaining the research aims and what participation would involve,
and a consent form to sign. A simpler, more visual information sheet was designed for
pupils, alongside an assent form. Participation risks were low, however it is possible
that some participants who may have had particularly negative experiences could have
experienced the discussion as distressing. The researcher reiterated that they were not
required to answer questions they did not want to, and could take a break at any time.
She also provided a contact within the school that the participants could speak with
following the interviews. Data were kept in accordance with the University’s data
protection policy, stored on a password-protected laptop, and kept confidential.
Data Analysis
All interviews were transcribed and analysed following Lichtman’s (2013, pp.251)
‘three Cs of analysis; from coding to categorising to concepts’. Firstly, deductive codes
were identified based on previous research including bullying, communication and
teacher knowledge. Then the data were coded inductively to find additional recurring
categories. These codes were then combined into five main concepts/themes that
emerged frequently throughout the data. Transcripts were then reread and colour
coded with each of the five main themes. This enabled key issues, and similarities and
differences both within and between participant groups to be identified.
Findings and implications for practice
Five key themes emerged from the data, which were seen to contribute to successful
transitions: inclusion, child-centred approach, familiarisation, visual supports and
communication and consistency. The notable overview of the data is that every pupil,
teacher, and parent reported the transition as a positive experience. One parent stated
‘it’s been a super positive experience’, whilst another said ‘it couldn’t have gone any
better’. A summary of specific practices identified which support transitions, as well as
implications for practice, is included in Table 1.
***Insert Table 1 about here***
Inclusion and the value of the Learning Support base: Pupils and parents expressed
initial concerns about the structure of a mainstream school. One pupil was concerned
about the schools’ size being ‘very confusing’. Similarly, a parent felt:
‘my biggest concern was that he would just be roaming the corridors of the
school and be totally lost and no one would look after him with sixteen hundred
Other parents expressed concerns about their child being bullied, or ‘overwhelmed’ by
other pupils. Additionally, the SENCo said that the ‘biggest’ question asked by pupils
before the transition is about bullying. Two pupils and two parents discussed incidences
of bullying at school, but said that LS colleagues were very quick to resolve the issues.
All pupils were happy to receive additional support in the LS base, and none expressed
desires to be fully included into mainstream classes. One pupil, who is in mainstream
for most lessons, said ‘LS really does help a lot’. This was also evident in the pupils
photographs, as every pupil took at least one photograph of the LS area or staff (Figure
***Insert Figure 1 about here***
When asked what they disliked about school, four pupils took pictures of communal
areas (Figure 2), describing them as ‘busy’ and ‘noisy’. Some pupils disliked how busy
the school gets during break and lunch times, and preferred stay in LS to eat their lunch
as it is quieter. Staff and pupils described ‘beneficial’, and ‘helpful’ provision in which
pupils from the LS go for lunch five minutes early to avoid the crowds.
***Insert Figure 2 about here***
However, despite being in LS for most or some of the time, pupils did not express feeling
excluded from the rest of the school. One pupil said ‘in a school we’re all like a family,
you know working together’. Three parents expressed desires for their child to fit into
mainstream, but all six acknowledged the benefits of LS, with one parent saying ‘this
school’s absolutely out of this world when it comes to LS’. Another parent described
how LS is essential for their child, saying ‘he just wouldn’t cope in any other school’. LS
was also beneficial for pupils following the mainstream curriculum, as one parent
‘he just has help every minute of the day, he comes out of class when he has a
problem, he goes straight to LS and they put his mind at rest’.
The LS department allows pupils to be in a mainstream school without having to
negotiate the structural components of secondary school, like transitioning between
classrooms and teachers. As one staff member described: ‘the aim is that they don’t
have to move very far’, ‘everything is catered for up in LS’ so ‘they get to know this part
of the school really well’.
Child-centred Approach
All staff members described how transition provisions are ‘flexible’ and ‘very dependent
on the individual needs’, as ‘what works for one child wouldn’t always work for
another’. Staff discussed various strategies to help pupils settle into the school,
including starting on part-time timetables. All parents were satisfied with the transition
provision their child received, frequently highlighting aspects that were individualised,
such as ‘they arranged for him to take photographs because that’s something he enjoys’.
However, one parent and her son felt their provision was not individualised. This year 9
pupil follows the mainstream curriculum, and has little contact with LS unless there is a
problem. When talking about his taster day ahead of the transition, he explained ‘the
thing that was unhelpful was…I had to do the same thing as everyone else’. Thus, it is
important that those pupils who are fully based in the mainstream are not overlooked
when it comes to additional individualised support and planning.
Another key idea in this category was the importance of staff having good knowledge of
the child and their needs. Four parents described how ‘teachers need knowledge of
autism’, along with knowledge about the individual child in order to get more out of
them. Parents appreciated teachers making ‘a point of getting to know his personality
and things that he’s really good at’, with another parent saying ‘I think you need to
know the child really well’. All staff members discussed the importance of gathering
information about pupils. One teacher described using an ‘all about me’ unit of work to
‘try and find out what their interests are’. One parent said: they incorporate trains into
his art projects and stories, and they use what’s of interest to him to get more out of
him’. Further, pupils’ interests can be used to help aid the transition process. The SENCo
described how they often ‘work our transition around those interests’ to help engage
pupils more.
One parent highlighted that it is not just the child that the school needs to have
knowledge about:
‘me as a parent is an outsider, and they need to understand the parent as well,
and then once the parents understood it’s easier to transfer them into a different
school because the parents understand what’s happening’.
However, none of the staff members described efforts to try and actively get to know
parents. Interestingly, the importance of teacher knowledge about individual pupils
prior to secondary school entry was rarely mentioned by the pupils themselves. One
pupil described how he liked his teachers that listened to him, and demonstrated this by
taking a photograph of his tutor during the photovoice activity, whom he said is always
there to listen to him. Another pupil took photographs of a room where he has one-to-
one talks with a teacher, and said he likes being listened to in there.
Familiarisation was highlighted as a way to reduce the anxieties that come with the
transition to secondary school. As one pupil described, ‘that’s what I personally think is
vital for autistic children, you have to prepare them for the environment’. When
discussing effective transition provisions, pupils and parents spoke of school tours and
chances to meet staff beforehand in order to familiarise themselves with the school
environment. Parents appreciated when the primary school ‘would free up a member of
staff that [child] was familiar with so they could come with him’ which ‘helped a lot’ as it
was not a completely unfamiliar environment. Staff spoke about occasionally going to
meet pupils in their primary school first, so they then had a friendly face when they
toured the secondary school. Further, the SENCo described how transition work is done
‘prior to the main… taster day’ so that on the taster day ‘those that need it have had a lot
of input already’ and are familiar with the environment. These familiarisation strategies
were seen as beneficial by staff members and hence, could be adopted by other schools
to help manage the transition.
One issue raised by parents was that they did not have enough opportunities to see the
school and LS department themselves, particularly those parents of children in
‘As a mum I would have liked to have had a tour of the school because then that
would have been easier to have a map and visualise where everything was’.
One parent argued that as autism has a strong genetic component, it is important to
‘cater for the parents as much as the child’, and ensure parents also have that familiarity
with the environment to reduce their own anxieties about their child being there.
Visual Supports
Visual supports were emphasised by multiple participants as essential for successful
transitions between primary and secondary school. Three staff members described
using visual supports to aid autistic children through the transition, including sending
photographs of the school to primary schools, and allowing pupils to come and take
photographs themselves. The SENCo felt that visual supports arereally important and
powerful in terms of transitions’. They discussed how it is very beneficial for pupils on
the autism spectrum to have photographs of where they will be and the staff they will
be with. Another staff member discussed using Social Stories (Gray & Garand, 1993)
with pupils before they transition. Five parents also praised the use of Social Stories
and other visual supports such as photo-booklets. One parent said: photographic
pictures you cannot get better than that…the more photographic keys you can give them
the better’.
Another parent discussed how visual supports were beneficial over the summer
holidays before their child started secondary school, as they could ‘put the social story
up in the kitchen so it was there all the time and he could see it regularly’, to help
familiarise them with the new environment. Further, when asked what support would
be helpful for future transitions, ‘more visual support’ was frequently mentioned.
However, one member of staff described;
‘a lot of kids carry visual supports with them and don’t necessarily know how to
use them because they need training and practice, and then the teachers and TAs
[teaching assistants] don’t really know what to do with them’.
Therefore, simply having visual supports does not necessarily imply that they will be
effective. Consequently, schools should provide training to staff and parents on how to
use visual supports effectively, so they can assist pupils in using them in school and at
Interestingly, despite staff and parents discussing the usefulness of visual supports,
none of the pupils mentioned them in their interviews. This may be because they were
not directly asked, and so future research should cue children to discuss visual supports
in order to explore their views about using them. Nevertheless, using photovoice as a
method was beneficial for pupil interviews, which reinforces the point about the value
of using visual supports in general.
Communication and Consistency
All parents were pleased with the communication received from the secondary school,
stating they can always contact staff if they have any concerns, and that this was
ongoing throughout the transition process. Effective communication with school staff
appeared to be an essential factor for a successful transition from parental perspectives,
with one parent saying ‘I did need lots of time to talk things through and you know just
discuss how things were going’. Another parent described ‘I’ve never come up against a
brick wall, they’re always very, very accommodating and helpful’ and went further to
say ‘you’re always made to feel really welcome, that’s another important thing’. This
highlights that effective communication between the school and parents needs to make
parents feel relaxed and supported so that they feel able to contact the school. An
emphasis on effective and consistent communication was also apparent during staff
interviews, as all staff members described parents being able to contact them at any
time. One teacher said;
‘we have that communication right from day 1 so when they arrive there’s lots of
phone calls, notes home and we put on an extra parents evening’.
Parents and staff both expressed the importance of ensuring teachers are well-
informed. One staff member said:
‘we arm teachers with a training strategies booklet to support them, with any
information about individuals coming to their class, so the teachers are very
Parents appreciated staff sending emails to all of their child’s teachers about particular
issues. However, despite staff and parents thinking this is effective, some pupils raised
concerns about the communication between staff, highlighting a lack of consistency in
their methods. For example, one pupil described:
‘with one teacher who had the system of if I couldn’t remember I’d put my
thumbs up, and it was really good, and I don’t have her anymore so the system
went in the end’.
For this pupil, that system was beneficial as he did not have to repeatedly put his hand
up, as this led to stigmatisation from peers. Further, lack of consistency between staff
was also discussed by a staff member, who discussed how ‘teachers are not consistently
using the resources put out to them’, because ‘it requires extra preparation’. Hence, it is
important for school management to ensure not only that they pass information to
teachers, but that teachers are enabled to communicate between themselves about what
strategies they have found effective/ineffective with particular pupils.
This case study aimed to elicit the views and experiences of children, parents, and
teachers to provide insights into effective practices for supporting the transitions of
autistic pupils between primary and secondary school. Many practices were identified
including how to enable communication between parents and the school; using the
child’s special interests to engage and support them; implementing visual supports in a
range of ways; and allowing plenty of time ahead of the transition to allow pupils and
parents to become comfortable and familiar with new staff and the new environment.
While many of these ideas chime with existing literature (e.g. Whitaker, 2007; Peters &
Brooks, 2016; Stoner et al., 2007; Gunn & Delafield-Butt, 2016; Mancil & Pearl, 2008;
Neal & Frederickson, 2016), what is new here are the details that illustrate these
effective practices from multiple perspectives and direct experiences, and the focus on
the Learning Support base as a site for enabling positive experiences. Indeed, there are
many more details about effective practices included here that are not described in the
Autism Education Trust’s Transition Toolkit (Stobart, not dated). In line with Neal and
Frederickson (2016), the current findings confirm and extend the evidence base about
the strategies that can support successful transitions to secondary school.
The Learning Support base, as a particular characteristic of the school (cf. Mandy et al.,
2016), is likely to be central to understanding the overwhelmingly positive experiences
reported by the participants. Such positive experiences were surprising given the
difficulties and challenges in transition identified elsewhere in the literature (noted
above). As a resourced provision, the Learning Support department at the school
reserves places for pupils with a specific type of SEN. Pupils are generally taught mainly
within mainstream classes, but require the support of a base and some specialist
facilities around the school, which may vary depending on need. Resourced provisions
exist in just over 20% of mainstream secondary schools in England (729 schools; DfE,
2017), and are entitled to additional funding for each place in recognition of the
resources required to provide extra support. Thus, this case study illustrates what is
possible in the context of this additional support, and the notable differences it can
make to individuals and families at the challenging and anxiety-provoking time of
transition. Certainly, other literature points to the value of specialist resource bases for
supporting children’s outcomes (OfSTED, 2006) and as a type of provision preferred by
parents (Frederickson, Jones & Lang, 2010; Barnard, Prior & Potter, 2000).
The role of resource bases within the context of debates on inclusive provision is a
contentious one; space precludes exploration of the main issues here but readers are
referred to Hornby (2015) for an overview. In a nutshell, some critics argue that such
resource bases are on a continuum towards anti-inclusion by maintaining specialist
provision rather than enabling all children to be educated in mainstream provision (e.g.
see overview by Huefner, 2015). Ravet (2011), discussing children and young people on
the autism spectrum specifically, characterises this view as a rights-based approach to
inclusion. By contrast, Ravet (2011) discusses needs-based inclusion, which
acknowledges the heterogeneity of need across the school population and supports the
preservation of a range of provision to meet distinctive learning needs. Ravet (2011)
highlights that an understanding of autism is essential if teachers are to be able to meet
children’s needs effectively otherwise teachers may rely on general teaching
approaches, or neurotypical assumptions, that would then act as exclusionary practices
for those children.
A needs-based approach to inclusion comes through very clearly in the findings
presented here. From the pupilsperspectives, the understanding and flexibility of the
LS base was vital for making them feel comfortable, included, settled and ready to learn.
From parents’ and teachers’ perspectives, understanding the child as an individual, with
personalities and special interests, was central to the approach taken by the staff in the
LS base. What is clear is that this is about seeing and knowing the whole child and,
therefore, it is about understanding and responding to what autism means to that child
and to the family. Autism cannot be separated out, as a label or a distinctive category of
need, from the provision that is made available and to do so would potentially
undermine the successful transition practices that are illustrated here.
These findings, and indeed methodology, also have value in relation to the wider policy
context for supporting children with SEND in England, following the implementation of
the Children and Families Act 2014 and the provisions of the SEND Code of Practice
(DfE/DoH, 2015). Therein, schools have mandatory responsibilities to ensure that
children and families are included in decision-making about education and that their
voices are heard. The use of a photovoice methodology shows that the views of these
autistic pupils could be appropriately accessed and contribute to an understanding of
what matters to them, although of course such a methodology would require adaptation
for those who do not communicate verbally.
There are, of course, limitations to the study. As a case study of one school, with a small
number of participants, it is not possible to generalise from the data (Yin, 2009).
However, generalisation about other contexts is never the point of a case study; instead
its value lies in exploring individual pupils or schools and the issues they have in
context (Thomas, 2015). By illuminating particular practices it is feasible that at least
some of these could be implemented in other schools, albeit in different (context-
sensitive) ways. The focus and small-scale nature of the study do not undermine the
validity of what has been revealed for these individuals at this school. The participants
could have been selected for inclusion on the basis that they would give a particularly
positive view of their transition experiences. This is unlikely given the discussions had
with the Assistant Head and the impossibility of knowing in advance what individuals
would actually say; indeed, some participants also highlighted aspects of provision that
they felt could be improved. However, even if this was the case, the collation of
experiences and practices that highlight positive and successful transitions is important,
as they provide a basis upon which this school, and others, can reflect on what has been
achieved thus far, and what can be achievable in the future.
We very gratefully acknowledge the engagement and interest of everyone who took
part in this study, as well as the ACoRNS team more widely for supporting, and
contributing to, the research. ACoRNS was established with funding from the University
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Table 1: Summary of successful practices identified, areas for improvement, and implications for practice
Main theme
identified from
Successful practices for supporting
Areas for improvement
Implications for practice
Using the Learning Support base for
break and lunch times
Leaving for lunch 5 minutes ahead of
everyone else
Able to come out of class if there is a
problem and access support from
Learning Support staff
Minimising the number and distance of
transitions between lessons / activities
Having Teaching Assistants available to
help transitions between classrooms
One-to-one sessions with Learning
Support staff to discuss how the pupil is
getting on
Starting with some lessons in mainstream
and adapting access to mainstream
lessons accordingly
Ensuring pupils who are mostly, or
completely within mainstream
classes can access this support and
not just those in Learning Support
Support flexibility for pupils with regard
to the ending of lessons and start of
break times
Be clear with all pupils and when, where
and from whom support can be accessed
Plan the location of lessons carefully to
minimise ‘horizontal’ transitions where
Schedule a place in the timetable when
pupils can communicate their views
about the support they receive and why /
how this has been helpful to them.
Starting on part-time timetables
More differentiation needed with
respect to taster days
Using special interests to help to frame
and plan transition activities, including
taster days
Arranging for pupil to take photographs
of the school when preparing for the
vertical transition to secondary
Gathering personalised information
about pupils, including their special
Having patience to allow the pupil to
settle in at their own pace
Providing pupils with opportunities to
voice their views
Asking parents to provide bullet point
lists about their child to give to school
Identify any special interests, or
preferred communication, prior to
taster days so that this information
can be incorporated where possible
Ensuring that parents’ knowledge of
their child, and own preferences and
needs for communication, are
elicited by staff as part of the
planning process
Ensuring information is gathered
about the parents as well as pupils
Using special interests to support
engagement with the taster days and the
Provide time in the timetable for pupils to
meet with staff and be encouraged to
share their views about their individual
needs and preferences
Support flexibility and have patience
during the first weeks of the transition
Encourage parents to share information
about themselves as well as the pupil
Having school tours and chances to meet
staff members during year 6 (final year of
Primary school staff coming with pupils to
tour the secondary school
Secondary school staff going to the
primary school to meet pupils in their
Implementing these familiarisation
strategies before the main year 6 taster
Ensure that parents have
opportunities to visit/tour the school
Doing more bridging work between
year 6 and 7, so there are some
familiar aspects that pupils already
Provide pupils with opportunities to
meet other pupils who will be in
Learning Support before they start
Providing multiple opportunities for both
parents and pupils to tour the school
Ensure parents and pupils have
opportunities to meet key members of
staff before the transition
Schedule a session as part of the
transition planning for pupils coming
from different schools to meet each
other within the Learning Support
Having staff names and pictures in pupils’
Starting term with familiar topics that
have been covered in primary school
Visual supports
Arranging for pupils to take photographs
of the school ahead of the main transition
to secondary
Sending photos of the school to primary
schools to show the pupils in year 6
Having photos showing the rooms and
staff members that the pupil will be
working with
Using Social Stories about transition
during the summer break before the
Providing maps of the school layout
Ensuring staff members know how
to use visual supports effectively
Ensuring all pupils who would like
them receive photos of the school
particularly including those in
Provide visual supports before the
Provide training to staff and parents on
how to best support pupils to use their
visual supports effectively during the
summer break and then into the new
academic year
and consistency
Ongoing communication between
parents and school staff
Having an open doors policy so parents
can contact school staff at any time
Providing teachers will booklets
containing information about the needs
of individuals coming to their class
Ensuring teachers are consistent in
their methods of supporting pupils
Ensuring teachers are
communicating between themselves
Encouraging communication
between parents who have a child
School Management should pass
information down to teachers as well as
ensuring they communicate between
themselves about effective/ineffective
strategies for particular pupils
Having open, consistent communication
with parents before, during and after the
School staff meeting parents before the
with autism going through the
Providing teachers with
opportunities to speak to the pupils’
primary school teacher to better
understand how to support them in
Work with parents to develop a group or
contact point for peer support
Continue to emphasise a learning culture
whereby teachers and other
professionals from the different schools
can learn from each other
Figure 1: Pupil photographs of Learning Support area (liked)
Figure 2. Pupil photographs of communal areas (disliked)
... prosadit, aby škola naplnila přísliby rodičům. Tyto kategorie souvisí s konzistencí podpory (Hodges et al., 2020;Hoy et al., 2018;Morelle et al., 2019). Rodiče zdůrazňují, že učitelé nesmí v průběhu školního roku zapomínat na podpůrná opatření, která byla na začátku školního roku pro žáky se SVP stanovena. ...
... úpravu kurikula a jeho plánování (Soodak et al., 1995), metody učitelů a organizaci vzdělávání Priestley et al., 2002), monitorování vzdělávacího procesu a hodnocení žáků (Priestley et al., 2002;Cook et al., 2016;Morelle et al., 2019). Zabývali se otázkou zdrojů (Nelson, 2017) a zdůrazňovali přístup zaměřený na dítě (Hoy et al., 2018). ...
... Léky sice usnadňují vzdělávání těchto žáků, ale za cenu toho, že dítě již není samo sebou, což vyvolává v rodičích ambivalentní pocity (Archer, 2013). U žáků s PAS je příkladem strategií respektování smy-slových potřeb, potřeba rutiny nebo vizuální podpora žáků s PAS (Rouvali, Riga, 2020;Hoy et al. 2018). ...
Full-text available
This publication presents several research studies carried out in cooperation with academics and students from the Institute of Special Education Studies, Palacký University Olomouc as part of the project IGA_PdF_2020_028: Research on inclusion of individuals with special needs. This project builds on similar projects implemented between 2017 and 2019 which focused on the issue of inclusion in the context of schools and school counselling centres. The aim of this publication is to examine the issue of education of pupils with special needs from the perspective of their parents. The fi rst chapter presents a study in the form of a scoping review. By means of a systematic search in scientifi c databases and sources of grey and unpublished literature, the study off ers an overview of available literature focused on the experience of parents of pupils with special needs in inclusive schools. The study was conducted in cooperation with researchers from the recently established Center of Evidence-Based Education and Arts Therapies: A JBI Affi liated Group. The second chapter builds on the knowledge gap identifi ed by the scoping review from the fi rst chapter. On the basis of a qualitative study conducted according to Van Manen’s methodology for lived experience analysis, the experience of three families of children with cerebral palsy is presented. An in-depth analysis allows us to understand the experience of these families in the context of the Czech educational environment. However, the results of this study are also inspiring from an international perspective as there is an absence of similar studies aimed at this population of pupils in an international sett ing. The third chapter presents a cross-sectional study based on a questionnaire survey conducted in response to the pandemic situation from the beginning of March 2020. The aim of the study was to identify the perception of the current (pandemic) situation by the employees of schools established pursuant to Section 16, Sub-Section 9 in the Olomouc Region with respect to the requirements of the education process and impact on pupils’ families. The chapter was created in cooperation with the Department of Education and Youth of the Regional Education Department of the Regional Authority of the Olomouc Region. All of the chapters emphasise the signifi cant position of the family in the education of pupils with special needs. Especially in an inclusive learning environment, which does not off er so many opportunities for interaction between teachers and parents, teachers may not be aware of substantial experience that families have and that signifi cantly aff ect the interpretation of future events. The text of the fi rst two chapters showed that in some cases this experience is very intimate or even hurting for the parents. The knowledge of the life stories of the pupils and their families may help us bett er understand them and adapt educational and counselling interventions.
... and individual interviews. Hoy et al. (2018), UK Education Understand experiences of the primary to secondary school transition from perspectives of pupils with ASD, parents and teachers. ...
... These studies were conducted in research areas of psychology, nutrition, health sciences, and education. Some studies explored perspectives and understandings of children and adolescent participants about autism spectrum conditions, wellbeing, personal interests, transition from primary to secondary schools, and inclusion in educational settings and physical activities (Danker et al., 2019;Ha & Whittaker, 2016;Hill, 2014;Hoy, Parsons, & Kovshoff, 2018;King, Williams, & Gleeson, 2019;Lamb et al., 2016;Obrusnikova & Cavalier, 2011). Some researchers sought to learn about experiences of adults regarding their wellbeing, strengths, transition to adulthood, and evaluation of health promotion programs in community-based center (Cheak-Zamora, Teti, & Maurer-Batjer, 2018; Krutt, Dyer, Arora, Rollman, & Jozkowski, 2018;Lam, Holden, Fitzpatrick, Raffaele Mendez, & Berkman, 2020). ...
... Ten studies in this review were underpinned by the philosophical assumptions of constructivism, and only the study of Krutt et al. (2018) was the research based on a transformative paradigm. These philosophical orientations underpinned various qualitative approaches used in the studies such as ethnography (Ha & Whittaker, 2016), phenomenology (Hill, 2014;King et al., 2019), grounded theory (Cheak-Zamora et al., 2018;Danker et al., 2019), and case study (Hoy et al., 2018). Characteristics of the reviewed studies are summarized in Table 1. ...
Purpose This meta-synthesis of the literature critically reviews how Photovoice has been used in qualitative research with people on the autism spectrum whose difficulties in communication often restrain their accessibility to and participation in research. It focuses specifically on ways that researchers used Photovoice to enable people on the autism spectrum to participate in research about them and present first-hand accounts of their lives. Methods The authors conducted a meta-synthesis of qualitative research studies. Nine research databases including subject specific databases for public health, psychology and social work were searched in January and August 2020 to identify the studies that used Photovoice to explore the experiences and perspectives of people on the autism spectrum. Of the 94 identified papers, 11 met requirements for inclusion in the review. Data was extracted from these papers to describe the steps of Photovoice used by the researchers in their studies with participants on the autism spectrum. Results Researchers in the reviewed papers conducted the major stages of Photovoice methodology developed by Wang and Burris (1997) to accomplish their studies, including engagement, data collection, data analysis, and outcome dissemination with participants on the autism spectrum. The meta-synthesis of the literature also identified that researchers made modifications to Photovoice methodology to fit in with purposes of their studies and, more importantly, to facilitate communication and enhance meaningful participation of people on the autism spectrum in research. Conclusion Photovoice can facilitate engagement of people on the autism spectrum in research.Future studies using Photovoice should include visual cues and verbal prompts to support communication of participants and become inclusive for people who are on the autism spectrum and with non-verbal abilities by offering them more alternatives of communication.
... The children with ASD made varying references to their relationships with their peers either before or after their transition to secondary school. Before the transition children were After transition, many children reported that they had established new friendships (Neal & Frederickson, 2016;Richter et al., 2019b) or fitted in better with their peers (Hoy et al., 2018). Some children reported a benefit from the shared experiences resulting from meeting other children with ASD (Hannah & Topping, 2013). ...
... Some children reported a benefit from the shared experiences resulting from meeting other children with ASD (Hannah & Topping, 2013). As reported by a child in Hoy et al. (2018), "I'm not seen as an autist anymore but as someone normal". Finally, for some, it was the first time they had formed a friendship (Dann, 2011;Neal & Frederickson, 2016). ...
... However, for other children, ongoing social challenges persisted after the transition, with difficulties fitting in, with making and maintaining friendships (Dann, 2011;Fortuna, 2014;Jindal-Snape et al., 2006;Makin et al., 2017), and with being bullied (Fortuna, 2014;Hoy et al., 2018;Neal & Frederickson, 2016). ...
Full-text available
Background The transition from primary to secondary school is a period of intense sociocultural and environmental change, which can present specific challenges for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Children’s perspectives are often lacking in research on ASD, and this is also the case for research on children with ASD at the primary to secondary school transition. Method This systematic literature review serves an important purpose by comprehensively identifying and synthesising the empirical research on the first-hand accounts of children with ASD in relation to their transition from primary to secondary school. Results Across the results of nine studies that met inclusion criteria, four core themes emerged: relationships, feelings and expectations regarding transition, facilitators and barriers of a successful transition, and heterogeneity of needs relating to ASD. Conclusion The results emphasise the importance of reducing the concerns of children with ASD through transition planning as well as the adoption of a less negative narrative around the primary-secondary transition. Similar to their typically developing peers, children with ASD can have a positive experience of the primary-secondary transition.
... There is a dearth of research in an Irish context regarding the transition experience of Irish students with ASD. Previous research in other countries concerning ASD and the primary-secondary transition has focused on the perspectives and experiences of pupils and stakeholders on the transition process, and corresponding supports available to students (Hoy et al., 2018;Richter et al., 2019b). Relatively few studies have considered the change that students experience in the specific features of school environments, and the suitability of the school environments to meet the needs of the individual students with ASD at school transition. ...
... This is important given that unstructured times of the day, such as breaks, have been identified as challenging for students with ASD (Deacy et al., 2015). It is consistent with previous findings regarding the benefits of a designated space for children with ASD (Dann, 2011;Hoy et al., 2018). ...
Full-text available
Objective: Transition from primary school to secondary school is an important point in a young person's development. Children's experiences at transition have been found to have an enduring impact on their social and academic performance and potentially their success or failure at secondary school. This primary-secondary transition frequently presents challenges for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), resulting in uncertainty and anxiety. The objective of this study was to explore the perceptions of children with ASD, on the topic of which features of school environment fit more or less well with their needs, as they transferred from primary to secondary schools. Method: Semi-structured interviews were used to gather the experiences of 6 students with ASD, and their parents, before and after the transition to secondary school. A thematic analysis of these data identified common themes that captured the fits and misfits between the children's needs and their primary and secondary school environments. Result: Overall, participants voiced more positive perspectives of secondary school than primary school. Data analysis identified themes of feelings about school, peer relationships, relationship with school staff, curriculum, school organization, and accommodations. Conclusion: Inclusion and integration of students with ASD in mainstream secondary schools at transition can be a positive experience when the school environments are a good fit with the individual needs of each child with ASD. The transition can be challenging for children when a one size fits all approach is taken.
... In only two out of seventeen cases in study 3, parents evaluated their child's transition as not successful. As reasons for this situation they mainly named a lack of adaptation to the needs of their child by the teachers and a malfunctioning home-school-communication. Former studies as well as study 1 and 2 confirm that these are essential elements for a successful transition for students with ASD (Beaupré, Gauthier, & Germain, 2017;Foley et al., 2016;Hebron et al., 2015;Hoy, Parsons, & Kovshoff, 2018;. ...
... For such a meeting it would be useful to invite all teachers and relevant school staff as well as external professionals who are involved in the child's care. This means a considerable organizational effort, but this and former studies show that a regular and transparent communication with all involved actors can be very beneficial in order to deal with the new situation (Beaupré et al., 2017;Cantali, 2019;Hoy et al., 2018;. ...
This thesis investigated the transition from primary to secondary school of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in France. Study 1 provided criteria for a sucessful transition. It showed that the transition is complex and affects several stakeholders. Study 2 captured the social representations of lay people on a successful transition. These are largely congruent between lay people considering or not a student with ASD. Nevertheless, differences remain and were further investigated in study 3. This study delivered results concerning the experiences and perceptions of concerned stakeholders. Moreover, it identified strategies for a successful transition, as well as barriers. The results of these studies were combined to develop recommendations for a successful primary-secondary transition for students with ASD. Due to the complexity of the transition, every recommendation has to be adapted to each case and stakeholder. Existing measures as well as the new recommendations are discussed in the context of the ambition to achieve an inclusive school system.
... The shared understanding can support the development of strategies for both the family setting and at school. For example, both the teacher and the parent identify the child's interests and abilities and agree on consistent strategies to support specific behaviours (Hoy et al., 2018;Lake et al., 2018). ...
Full-text available
Parent-teacher partnerships involve open and frequent communications. Successful partnerships are important contributors to the learning outcomes of students with diverse needs. However, parents and teachers often have limited opportunities to develop a shared understanding of the student on the au-tism spectrum and to have conversations about strategies to support the child's learning at home and school. This article evaluates a combined parent-teacher training program, held in Australia before the COVID-19 pandemic, that built and strengthened the parent-teacher partnership. Nine parents and nine teachers were interviewed one month after attending the training workshop. Parents and teachers reported improved communications and a strengthened partnership as an outcome of the training program through an improved understanding of the needs of the student on the autism spectrum.
... Finally, it is important for future work to triangulate the perspectives of autistic young people with those of others close to them, including parents and/or teachers, to gain a more holistic picture of their educational journeys (e.g. Makin et al., 2017;Hoy et al., 2018;Halsall et al., 2021;Wood, 2021); identifying how to ensure that autistic young people can access help and support, have a say in their education and achieve better outcomes. ...
Full-text available
Changes to special educational needs and disability (SEND) legislation in England were implemented in 2014. Here, we evaluate the impact of these changes from the perspective of 80 autistic young people aged 16–25 years. Using an online survey and/or interviews, we examined young people’s views on three key principles of the SEND reforms: the help and support provided to them; whether they were given a say in the choices and support that they were offered; and their satisfaction with their educational journeys and outcomes. The results paint a mixed picture. Our sample of young people reported varied experiences regarding the help and support they received, and how much of a say they had regarding the choices and support available to them. The types of schooling they accessed played a role here: young people in mainstream schools highlighted particular challenges in accessing appropriate support, while many young people in special schools said they felt well supported. Parental advocacy was crucial for all young people, as was having key ‘champions’ in the form of teachers who really knew them well. The need for the development of general life and self‐advocacy skills was apparent, however, especially in preparing the young people for life after school. Encouragingly, most of our participants were generally happy with their current situation, despite identifying several areas for further improvement. Overall, the results highlight the importance of listening to—and learning from—autistic young people, throughout their educational journeys and especially as they transition to adulthood.
... Transition is described as being related to the process of change (Hoy, Parsons & Kovshoff, 2018 (Zeedyk et al., 2003). further emphasise the broadened impact of transition in ecological terms with the understanding of major shifts in an autistic learner's life; thus, presenting a combination of academic, social, emotional, and organisational challenges. ...
Conference Paper
One in four children diagnosed with autism have been excluded from school at some point during their education (Ambitious about Autism, 2014). Mainstream secondary school is a time of particular vulnerability due to challenges associated with the environment, timetabling, and social pressures; along with relationships (Makin, Hill & Pellicano, 2017). Compared to other groups of children identified with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND), autistic children are being excluded from mainstream secondary in disproportionate numbers (Department for Education, 2017). As a result, many end up in the generalised setting of a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU); an Alternative Provision (AP) for children who are unable to attend mainstream education. Whilst it is expected that educators support the learning needs of autistic children (Makin et al., 2017), difficulties can be regularly experienced in providing such support (Trussler & Robinson, 2015). The current research examined educators’ perspectives through a semi-structured interview; 16 educators with experience of working in PRUs were recruited. The focus was on supporting autistic children and how educators themselves could be supported. Using thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006), four themes were identified: (1) Understanding the needs of PRU-based autistic children; (2) The enabling environment of the PRU; (3) Effectiveness of support through systems and structures; and (4) Preparing autistic children and adolescents for adulthood through the PRU provision. Findings were considered within an eco-systemic framework (Bronfenbrenner, 1979) in relation to individual needs, impact of the context, and the influence of the wider, surrounding systems. Particular messages related to mainstream secondary schools learning from autism-support that can be implemented by PRUs. Another message is that of promoting a culture recognising that currently applied support is imperative for providing autistic children with a positive future outlook. Implications for Educational Psychologist (EP) support highlighted training, resourcing and supervision, amongst other benefits. The lack of literacy eliciting the perspectives of educators on supporting autistic children at PRUs is exceptional. The current study provided a foundation for understanding the implications that autism support has at individual, group, whole-PRU level and beyond. Keywords: autism; educators; support; exclusion; inclusive practice; Pupil Referral Unit; mainstream secondary school.
... However, the features of educational provision that matter most to pupils with SEND often relate to everyday experiences in the classroom, and with teachers, for example, where to sit in the classroom and how work should be presented and explained (Hummerstone, 2018;Lewis et al., 2007). Understanding such features is crucial for helping pupils to feel included and to provide supportive and enabling teaching environments, including around transitions (Hoy et al., 2018). Also, pupil views often differ from teachers and so it is important to access pupil views directly wherever possible (Hummerstone, 2018). ...
Background: the UNCRC (1989) established the importance of listening to children's views globally. In England, seeking the views of pupils with special educational needs and disability about their education, and involving them in decision-making, has been mandatory since 2015. Autistic children's views and experiences are particularly underrepresented in this context. Aims: to provide a detailed, exploratory analysis of practices that enable autistic pupils to participate in educational decision-making; and to generate new knowledge about pupil participation in a school context, using the Framework for Participation (Black-Hawkins, 2010) as an analytical frame. Sample: Four male pupils aged 11-15, with autism spectrum diagnoses, and 11 staff members from a specialist, independent school took part in this case study. Methods: Observations were made of pupils in lessons, and pupils completed a photo-voice activity focusing on where they felt 'most listened to' in the school. Staff members participated in semi-structured interviews. Results: A range of practices supported pupils' participation in everyday decision-making, underpinned by a respectful and positive culture led by the senior management team. The focus was on what learners can do, and how they make decisions to facilitate achievement. Pupils and staff developed mutually respectful relationships, within which boundaries were negotiated and compromises offered. Flexibility through decision making was provided within the timetabling and content of the curriculum. Pupils' special interests and expertise were valued as 'keys' to supporting their engagement. Conclusions: These insights provide a tool for reflection by educators and Educational Psychologists for considering how they might promote the participation of autistic pupils in different educational contexts.
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Reviews have called for the greater involvement of autistic young people in developing methods for eliciting their views. Methodologically, co-design is important for developing credible and acceptable approaches; conceptually and practically, co-design offers a means through which to address the double empathy problem for research and practice, which states that autistic people have difficulties understanding the perspectives and communication of non-autistic people, and vice versa. This study reports both methodological and pedagogical observations through critical reflections on a co-design process of a paper-based method for sharing information about sensory preferences with six autistic students aged 12-13 years, 16 educational practitioners, and five autistic adults. The co-design process supported students to share information with each other and build self-awareness. Participants were positive about the potential for sharing information but raised concerns about the extent to which new knowledge would impact on teaching practices. Co-designed methods are needed in tandem with sustained autism awareness to change attitudes and educational practices.
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Background and aims: Children diagnosed with an autism spectrum condition are known anecdotally to be especially vulnerable during the transition to secondary school. Yet, very little is known about the child-, school-and system-level factors that can potentially make changing schools particularly difficult for these children. Here, we report on a mixed-method study, which examined the factors that influence a successful school transition for autistic children in one local education authority in England. Methods: Fifteen children were seen twice in the space of four months – once during the final term of their mainstream primary school and again during the first term of secondary school. Parents and teachers were also interviewed at both time points. Results: Overall, our participants reported negative experiences of their transition to secondary school – regardless of the type of secondary provision (mainstream or specialist) to which they transferred. None of the child-level factors measured during the pre-transition phase, including verbal ability, autistic symptomatology, sensory responsiveness and anxiety, predicted children's transition success four months later. Rather, transition success appeared to be predominantly related to several school-and system-level factors, including tensions over school choice, delays in placement decisions, lack of primary preparation and communication between schools. Identity-related issues were also a key concern for many children, which appeared to have a particularly negative influence on adjustment to their new school. Conclusions: We identified predominantly negative experiences of primary-to-secondary transition for the autistic children sampled here, which appeared to be accounted for largely by school-and system-level factors. Implications: Applying interventions that are designed to ease the transition to secondary school by modifying the school environment before, during and after transition to improve the fit between the autistic child and their educational environment should go some way in tackling school-related barriers to a successful transition for these children. System-level changes in the way that local authorities manage the transition process may also improve children and families' experiences.
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Experimental intervention studies constitute the current dominant research designs in the autism education field. Such designs are based on a ‘knowledge transfer’ model of evidence-based practice in which research is conducted by researchers, and is then ‘transferred’ to practitioners to enable them to implement evidence-based interventions. While these research designs contribute important knowledge, they lead to a gap between what the research evidence may prescribe and what happens in practice, with a concomitant disparity between the priorities of researchers and practitioners. This paper discusses findings from the ESRC funded ‘SHAPE’ project, which adopted a different model of evidence-based practice, focusing on knowledge co-construction. Pupils (N=8), teachers (N=10), a Speech and Language Therapist and a parent in three different school communities investigated creative ways in which children’s social communication skills could be enhanced through technology use. Through a participatory methodology, digital stories were used as a method to enable engagement with the practical realities of the classroom and empower practitioners to construct and share their own authentic narratives. Participants articulated precise knowledge about the learning opportunities afforded to them and their pupils through quality interactions that were mediated by the technologies, as evidenced through digital stories. The Shape project shows that it is feasible to develop methodologies that enable genuine knowledge co-construction with school practitioners, parents and pupils. Such co-construction could offer realistic opportunities for pedagogical emancipation and innovation in evidence-based practice as an alternative to the currently dominant and narrow model of knowledge transfer.
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Inclusive education requires teachers to adapt to children’s learning styles. Children with autism spectrum disorder bring challenges to classroom teaching, often exhibiting interests restricted to particular topics. Teachers can be faced with a dilemma either to accommodate these restricted interests (RIs) into teaching or to keep them out of the classroom altogether. In this article, we examined all peer-reviewed studies of teaching children with autism spectrum disorder with RIs published between 1990 and 2014. We find that positive gains in learning and social skills can be achieved by incorporating children’s RIs into classroom practice: Of 20 published studies that examined 91 children, all reported gains in educational attainment and/or social engagement. Negative consequences were limited to a decrease in task performance in one child and a transient increase in perseverative behaviors in two children. The evidence supports the inclusion of RIs into classroom practice. Methods of inclusion of RIs are discussed in light of practical difficulties and ideal outcomes.
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Inclusive education and special education are based on different philosophies and provide alternative views of education for children with special educational needs and disabilities. They are increasingly regarded as diametrically opposed in their approaches. This article presents a theory of inclusive special education that comprises a synthesis of the philosophy, values and practices of inclusive education with the interventions, strategies and procedures of special education. Development of inclusive special education aims to provide a vision and guidelines for policies, procedures and teaching strategies that will facilitate the provision of effective education for all children with special educational needs and disabilities.
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The transition from primary to secondary education (hereafter 'school transition') is a major ecological shift that poses considerable social, emotional, academic and organisational challenges. It is commonly assumed that this school transition is especially difficult for children with autism spectrum disorder, but that idea is mainly based on anecdotal evidence and requires systematic investigation. We describe change and continuity for children with autism spectrum disorder (N = 28, mean age = 11.29 years, mean full-scale IQ = 87.86) transitioning in mainstream education from primary to secondary school. Levels of psychopathology, adaptive functioning and peer victimisation were measured by parent, self and teacher report in the last year of primary school, and again after one term of secondary school. At follow-up, all participants were still in their secondary school, and there was no evidence for a marked escalation of difficulties during the transition. Instead, we observed high levels of psychopathology and maladaption at baseline which persisted across the transition and were in some cases under-recognised. By parent report, levels of bullying fell from primary to secondary school. Future research should investigate factors, such as school characteristics, that influence the move to secondary education in autism spectrum disorder, to inform the development of interventions to promote successful school transition. © The Author(s) 2015.
The transition to secondary school is considered difficult for children with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), yet there has been little strength-based investigation of positive experiences of this population and the types of support they value most in managing anxiety about transition. The current article presents a qualitative exploration of the perspectives of six children with ASD who had recently transitioned successfully into mainstream secondary schools. Thematic analysis of semi-structured interview transcripts indicated that the children valued many changes associated with moving to secondary school (for example, greater routine, more varied lessons). In terms of intervention approaches, children favoured those that were positive in focus (for example, support from family, discussions about positive aspects of secondary school) and provided practical advice (for example, written information about secondary school, secondary school visits, opportunities to meet secondary school staff). Despite these commonalities, experiences varied and it was evident that children benefitted from individualised support tailored to their specific needs. Findings have implications concerning the support offered to children with ASD across secondary school transition and highlight the need to incorporate the child’s voice into intervention plans.
One of the challenges in doing research with individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the difficulty in communication. This study employed a modified form of photovoice with a group of young people with ASD in Hanoi, Vietnam, to provide a means of meaningful participation in research about their lives, experiences, and needs. We describe the process of conducting photovoice with nine children with ASD from June 2011 to May 2012, many of whom had limited verbal communication skills. More than 2100 photos were taken by children. Undertaking photovoice with children with ASD required some modification of the method. In particular we consider the difficulties in analysing and interpreting the photographs produced by children with ASD. Due to the ambiguities of the visual images produced we found content analysis of photographs alone was inadequate. There was a discrepancy between our initial interpretations of the photographs and our understandings derived from information from interviews with children, parents, carers, and our own observations. Our study points to the need to understand context through multiple methods and the potential of photovoice as a means to mediate communication and participation in research for groups with communication difficulties.
The transition to secondary school is a common cause of stress and anxiety, which can be exacerbated by the innate characteristics associated with Asperger syndrome (AS) and high-functioning autism (HFA). This study aimed to explore experiences of the transition to secondary school for students with AS/HFA from the parental perspective. Seventeen parents of children with AS/HFA from the north of England completed an online questionnaire about their child's school transitional experience. Responses indicated that there were a number of factors that influenced the experiences of pupils with AS/HFA at school and the preceding transition, including anxiety, bullying, friendship and support at school. Girls with AS/HFA presented with unique issues not commonly seen in the male dominated condition. The transition to secondary school was seen to encompass a number of difficulties for students with AS/HFA. Health and educational services can learn from the experiences explored in this survey in order to inform future practice.
This book examines the concerns about inappropriate social behavior sometimes exhibited by individuals with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) and offers tips and strategies for alleviating problem situations.
Transition to secondary school is challenging for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), as it places increased demands on flexibility and social communication. Despite this there is little empirical evidence regarding the specific difficulties faced by children with ASD and their families during this transition. This study explored the experiences of parents of children with ASD during the move to mainstream secondary school. A pre-transition focus group was conducted with seven parents, of whom four were available for a post-transition interview. Data were subjected to Thematic Analysis. Four main themes emerged: (i) parents' perceptions of the function of education for their child; (ii) the process of preparing the child for transition; (iii) satisfaction with communication networks; and (iv) parental coping. All parents reported that their child needed specific support and believed that the drive for mainstream inclusion had limited the availability of such specialist provision. Parents often reported concerns about a lack of social and emotional support for their child at school. This qualitative study delineates parental experiences of transition from primary to secondary mainstream education for a small group of children with ASD. Our findings can guide future quantitative investigations of the extent of parental concerns in this area and can inform evaluations of relevant interventions.