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Autism: Change & Transition

“If a child is Autistic, they do not like change.”

Autism and change pinterest graphic

This is the biggest stereotype, attributed to autistic people, the most widely repeated generalisation (In schools anyway). It is not entirely accurate?

A better comment would be “Change causes anxiety.” or “The thought of change out of my control is stressful”.

Everyone to some degree or other is affected by change. Some change we control, volunteer for, or bring on ourselves. Other changes are out of our control and may well be unexpected.

If I may use a school based example; The end of term is approaching many students know change is coming, they are fully aware the there is a long holiday coming up and at that time each year teachers, friends and classrooms change. We are recording a slight increase in actions that demonstrate some students are finding it harder to settle and focus. For now consistency is the watchword. Today the class lists are finalised for September. Staff will soon find out who they will be working with, which students are in their classes.

As a teacher this was always the day that caused me the most anxiety. Would I be up to the task to provide the best education to this group of children? Would I be able to form an effective team of adults to support them? What new skills would I be developing to meet their needs?

My daughter is worried about changing to her junior school next year, verbal reassurance is working here. For our students we need to think carefully about how we approach this inevitable upheaval to their life.

Resources for Preparing Autistic Children for change.

  • Transition stories. (ReachoutASC has a good free one here)
  • Addressing concerns 1:1 – (don’t wait for them to ask the child may not want to ask but still want to know).
  • Share clear concise facts. (Here are some visuals based on the “Hero Card” idea.)

Transition cards Autism school.jpg

Download template here (Replace Stock images)

  • Ongoing planned challenge with small positive changes to routine.
  • allow time to build a relationship with new adults. (New teachers/LSAs visit child in old class) work with them not just observe.
  • A transition bag with familiar objects, images of the new class room, Pictures of friends they may be leaving behind etc.


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