On SAGE Insight: New school transitions for students with autism spectrum disorder: A systematic review on difficulties and strategies for success

Article title: Broken bridges—new school transitions for students with autism spectrum disorder: A systematic review on difficulties and strategies for success

From Autism

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For any child, school transitions place enormous pressure to adapt quickly to new settings, which can strain the child’s physical and mental health, and stress the family, Several school transition programs have been designed to mitigate transition difficulties. The review included 27 studies (10 examining the transition to primary school, 17 the transition to secondary school), with data from 443 students with autism spectrum disorder, 453 parents, and 546 teachers, across four continents (North America, Europe, Africa, and Australia). The goal in this review is to describe transition difficulties team members of children with ASD face and strategies currently available to support better transitions. It is designed to inform future research about school transitions and the development of transition interventions for students with ASD, their families, and school staff.

Few studies have examined the support needs of transitioning students with ASD and intervention development has only recently begun. Children with ASD struggle with anxiety and increased social pressure, their parents feel overwhelmed with complex placement decisions and worry about the well-being of their children, and teachers strive to provide appropriate supports to their students with ASD, often with fewer resources than required. Examining the effect of peer-mediated strategies on classroom acceptance of neurodiversity and inclusion success is an important area of future research on school transitions. Given the heterogeneity of ASD symptom presentation and idiosyncratic needs of children across the spectrum, individualization of supports is key. Parents, teachers, and students unanimously agreed that tailoring transition planning to a particular student is critical to ensure a smooth transition to the student’s new learning environment. School system factors, culture, educational provision, school/class/community size, and locality differences may affect the transitions of children with ASD, and should be investigated in future research.

Abstract

Transitioning to a new school is often challenging for students with autism spectrum disorder. Few studies have examined the transition needs of students with autism spectrum disorder or the benefits of specific supports. This review synthesizes research findings on the difficulties that school transitions pose for students with autism spectrum disorder and their parents and teachers, and the strategies used to support students and parents during school transition. The review included 27 studies (10 examining the transition to primary school, 17 the transition to secondary school), with data from 443 students with autism spectrum disorder, 453 parents, and 546 teachers, across four continents (North America, Europe, Africa, and Australia). Studies reported that children with autism spectrum disorder struggled with anxiety and increased social pressure, their parents felt overwhelmed with complex placement decisions and worried about the well-being of their children, and teachers strove to provide appropriate supports to their students with autism spectrum disorder, often with inadequate resources. Findings indicated that the most useful strategies involved helping the student adjust to the new school setting, individualizing transition supports, clarifying the transition process for parents, and fostering communication both between the sending and receiving schools, and school and home.

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Article details
Broken bridges—new school transitions for students with autism spectrum disorder: A systematic review on difficulties and strategies for success
Heather Joy Nuske, Elizabeth McGhee Hassrick, Briana Bronstein, Lindsay Hauptman, Courtney Aponte,Lynne Levato, Aubyn Stahmer, David S Mandell, Peter Mundy, Connie Kasari and Tristram Smith
First Published February 19, 2018 Review Article
DOI: 10.1177/1362361318754529
Autism

     
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