(September 2013 – August 2016)
Moving from primary to secondary school can be a stressful time for all young people, due to organisational and structural differences in the schools, as well as the need to form new relationships with a largely unfamiliar peer group. Young people with autism spectrum conditions (ASC) may find this amount of change and the increased social demands especially daunting, and yet little research so far has focused on this transition. The aim of this project was therefore to explore the impact and experience of the primary to secondary school transition for young people with autism. The research was generously funded and supported by the Leverhulme Trust and the University of Manchester Simon Early Career Fellowships.
Thirty-eight students with ASC and twenty-two typically-developing (TD) students, their parents and teachers completed questionnaires before, during, and after the transition: in the final term of Y6 (primary school), at the end of the first term of Y7 (first year of secondary school), during the third term of Y7, and at the end of the first term of Y8. Participants were drawn from mainstream and special schools across North West England and North Wales. Questionnaires on school connectedness and hopes for the future were conducted with students, while a quality of life measure was used with students, parents and teachers. In addition, there were ten case studies, involving interviews with young autistic students, their parents and teachers.
Visits to schools finished at the end of 2015, and analysis of the questionnaires and interviews have begun. Findings are broadly optimistic, with most of the young autistic people experiencing a positive transition. This does not mean that transition was successful for every student, or that students did not encounter significant challenges along the way. However, the findings indicate that a successful transition is possible with appropriate preparation and support.
You can read about the project findings in the documents below: