Supporting Autistic Children to Successfully Transition to Primary School: Perspectives from Parents and Early Intervention Professionals

Poster Presentation
Thursday, May 2, 2019: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Room: 710 (Palais des congres de Montreal)
N. T. Chen1,2, S. Miller1,3,4, B. T. Milbourn2, M. H. Black1,2, K. Fordyce5, G. Van Der Watt3,4, T. Alach1,3,4, A. Masi1,6,7, G. Frost8, M. Tucker9, V. Eapen1,6,10 and S. J. Girdler1,2, (1)Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC), Long Pocket, Brisbane, Australia, (2)School of Occupational Therapy, Social Work and Speech Pathology, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia, (3)Autism Association of Western Australia, Perth, Australia, (4)Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre, Bedford, Australia, (5)North West Tasmania Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre, St Giles Society, Burnie, Australia, (6)School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, (7)KU Marcia Burgess Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre, Liverpool, Australia, (8)Anglicare SA Daphne St Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre, Prospect, Australia, (9)Queensland Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre, AEIOU Foundation, Nathan, Australia, (10)Academic Unit of Child Psychiatry, South West Sydney (AUCS), ICAMHS, Mental Health Centre, L1, Liverpool Hospital, Liverpool, Australia

The transition to primary school is an important social and developmental milestone which may evoke significant anxiety and uncertainty for both children and families, as it is coupled with changes to existing supports. This transition can be particularly difficult for children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who face significant barriers to developing school readiness and experiencing a positive transition to school. There is a need to better understand how to support families and children diagnosed with ASD during this crucial time.


This study aimed to explore the perceptions of parents and early intervention staff on the factors contributing to school readiness and a successful school transition for children diagnosed with ASD.


Focus groups and interviews exploring school readiness and transition for children diagnosed with ASD were conducted with 58 early intervention staff and 15 parents of children diagnosed with ASD who transitioned to school from autism specific early learning and care centres (ASELCC) at the beginning of 2018. Thematic analysis was undertaken to explore factors influencing school readiness and transition at both system and individual levels.


At the system level both early intervention staff and parents discussed the need for better communication and collaboration between early intervention staff, receiving teachers and parents. Both groups also noted that teachers receiving children must build a relationship with the child and have an adequate understanding and knowledge of ASD. Early intervention staff and parents also emphasised the need to utilise a strengths-based approach, incorporating a child’s interests and skills to facilitate a successful transition to school. Early intervention staff noted that support provided by early intervention staff and parents advocating for the child was important for success. At the individual level, key issues highlighted were assisting children to develop independence, beginning the transition early to provide time to adjust, developing routines and structure, providing tools to facilitate transition, developing strategies to manage anxiety and individualizing the transition process.


Findings indicate a number of factors which must be considered to facilitate the transition to school for children diagnosed with ASD. This study highlights the need for clear, collaborative and ongoing communication between parents, teachers and early intervention staff to support children diagnosed with ASD during the transition to school. Early intervention staff must provide support to families and work with receiving teachers to develop knowledge and understanding of ASD to facilitate better school outcomes for children diagnosed with ASD. Using a strengths-based approach, collaboration between all stakeholders and individualizing the transition process are essential for success.