When it comes to transition between different schools, whether that is mid year because of a house move or at the end of the school year the following tips can help make that transition more difficult for Autistic pupils and indeed any child that finds change difficult:
Recognise that change is hard
Sometimes in our excitement for change and new starts it can be really hard to acknowledge the downsides that a move between schools may have. Remembering that whilst it is important to stress the positives it’s also important to acknowledge a child’s feelings that the change will be hard. Recognise that leaving behind hold friends and routines is challenging and tell the child that it is ok to be sad about the things they are leaving behind.
Make a photo book
A photo book showing their new school both externally and internally can be really helpful. Little details like where the bathrooms are, where they will sit and where they can hang their bag will really help to reassure children that they won’t forget any of the important details. If school policy allows photographs of the adults who they will come into contact with can be a great resource in showing children that there are people at their new school who want to help them settle in.
Have several visits prior to officially starting
Spending time in school prior to officially starting can be really helpful in helping to show children that they can be happy in their new setting. These can be a mix of short visits to try out things like lunch time or break time and longer full day sessions where children can see what will happen over the course of a day. For children who are feeling particularly anxious about their first visit seeing the building at the end of the day when the building is quiet can really help to build up their confidence.
Think about using a buddy system
Children often worry about getting things wrong on their first day and having a buddy to help guide them can be a huge help. Meanwhile those chosen as buddies often love the opportunity to get to know the newcomer and show them all the details of their new school. Buddy systems can have an enormously positive impact on both children involved and should be encouraged where possible.
Remember parents are your greatest allies
Remember that however great a teacher’s professional knowledge is, parents know their children best. An open and honest approach to communication can make a massive difference. Discovering a child’s interests and strengths as well as the things that they may find challenging can be hugely valuable in terms of helping a child to settle into their new environment.