Objectives: An online questionnaire was designed to ascertain the widest possible variety of views from a broad range of respondents. Responses were obtained from young people with ASD, their families and professionals across the United Kingdom. We hoped that the inclusion a range of respondents would allow examination of opinions from different groups, thus mechanisms for support could be more clearly identified. We gathered demographic information and a range of qualitative information in response to specific questions about transition.
Methods: Links to the online questionnaire were circulated to all the main ASD support networks throughout the United Kingdom.
Results: Over a period of one year, over 400 responses were received. 70% came from parents or relatives of a young person with ASD. Children with ASD made up 4% of respondents and 17% were professionals interested in the area of transition, such as educationalists. The remainder of the respondents comprised adults with ASD and a category of ‘other professionals' including researchers, family support practitioners and local charities. Preliminary analysis indicated children’s main concerns were the size of the new school and navigation around it, bullying and concerns academic work would be too difficult. Parents expressed concern that children would struggle with organisation and orientation at secondary school with 74% of the parents indicated getting lost in the school was a worry, 78% worried about the school size. All teachers indicated that getting lost would be a worry (100%). Parents worried about children forming and sustain friendships (68%), difficulties misunderstanding social rules and being bullied, though a lower figure of 30% of parents indicated bullying as a worry. Children’s mental health was a concern, with difficulties with anxiety, stress and depression being exacerbated by transition. The teachers' views mapped well with parental concerns for example both teachers and parents indicated travel to school as a worry (65%). Teachers also raised issues such as children with ASD being unable to identify sources of help when they experience difficulty at secondary school..
Conclusions: It is hoped that the findings from this study will contribute to both clinical and research understanding of the main stress factors for children with ASD and their families during transition. These findings may also be highly informative for education professionals supporting children during transition and allow for tailored planning and intervention. A well-planned and supported transition could have a profoundly positive impact on mental health as well as a child’s progression through secondary school. Our findings potentially can help reduce school refusal and the risk of placement breakdown for children with ASD at secondary level.
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