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Please be aware that this section contains information prepared in 2009 and may now be out of date. Some links may no longer work. We are reviewing this section.



Case studies




Preparing for and managing change is important for all children, but this is particularly so for those on the autism spectrum who can find change difficult. Given the problems that children on the autism spectrum have in communication and in understanding social routines, many want to stay with familiar people and places. Introducing a change to an already established routine can cause huge anxiety and distress. Knowledge of the individual and what they are likely to require before transition is essential.

The key transition phases in any child’s life are:

  • Starting pre-school or playschool at 2.5 – 3 years 
  • Starting primary school at 4 years 
  • Moving from primary school to secondary school at 11 years 
  • Either leaving school at 16 years or moving to further education 
  • Either leaving further education at 18/19 years or moving to higher education (University) or an adult service 
  • Leaving higher education
  • Finding work

The move from school to adulthood - the transition stage between age 14 and 25 - can be a particularly difficult time for people on the autism spectrum. People may find it difficult to adapt the 'rules' they have learnt in one context to new relationships and situations. Transition planning should start when the child reaches year 9 (age approximately 14 years) and should involve input from a range of agencies. Support through transition is crucial to maximize the life chances of young people on the autism spectrum.

The National Autistic Soceity report Make School Make Sense (2006) reveals that only 53% of young people were issued with transition plans during the course of their education, falling to just 34% of students in mainstream schools. The input of adult social services is crucial to the viability of the transition plan, and yet adult social services were only involved in planning in 17% of cases.

It is vital if young people on the autism spectrum are to reach their potential that we have high, yet realistic expectations for them. With varying levels of support the majority can live full and independent lives. The aspirations of children in the NAS report contrast sharply with the reality experienced by many adults on the autism spectrum. Only 6% of people with autism, and 12% of people with Asperger syndrome, are in full-time paid employment. This failure in the system to support people on the autism spectrum has repercussions for the individual, their families and for public expenditure.

Good Practice Guidance

The ASD Good Practice Guidance (see links) identify some key points for improving transition:

  • Local Authorities should have policies and procedures for the transition of children on the autism spectrum covering pre-school to school, home-based provision, to school, transition between phases of schooling and from school to post school provision
  • There should be adequate record keeping and profiling methods so that information can accompany children when they move on
  • Local Authorities should support mainstream schools to ensure that transition between schools will be successful 
  • Procedures in the SEN Code for transition between school and post-16 (non-school) provision should be followed
  • There should be good preparation for transfer to college or other post-16 provision
  • Connexions personal advisers should be aware of the needs of clients on the autism spectrum and their families and the available suitable provision.
  • They should also be aware of the incidence of autism spectrum diagnosis within their client group
  • There should be a partnership working between Connexions, the local autistic society and any locally based projects supporting young people on the autism spectrum
  • The success of transition should be monitored



Transition Support Programme

Aiming High for Disabled Children (AHDC), launched in May 2007, is the government’s transformation programme for disabled children's services in England. The programme identified that more work was needed to improve and co-ordinate services for disabled young people in transition to adult life. To address this, the government announced the Transition Support Programme, which aims to raise the standards of transition in all local areas.

The Transition Support Programme consists of two main elements:

  • The national transition support team, which will coordinate the work with local authorities, PCTs and regional advisers and existing experts
  • Support for change at local level through a combination of direct grants and regional adviser activity.
  • In December 2008 the Government announced that every local authority area is receiving £10,000 to assess their current support for transition including drawing in the views of young people and families and completing a self assessment questionnaire. Thirteen local authorities are receiving an additional £37,500 to extend their practice in the following areas: 
    engagement with disabled young people and also their families 
  • personalisation 
  • joint assessment processes in children’s and adult services 
  • education, employment and training options at 16+
  • strategic partnership working


The 13 areas are Birmingham, Cornwall, Coventry, Devon, London Borough of Redbridge, London Borough of Richmond, Leicester City, Medway, North East Lincolnshire, North Tyneside, Nottinghamshire, Oldham, & Suffolk.

Trans Map: from principles into practice (published by the Transition Information Network, Council for Disabled Children, and the National Children’s Bureau in May 2009, linked below.) highlights the main principles needed to improve the experience of transition for disabled children. The main principles are:

Principle 1 – Comprehensive Multi-Agency Engagement

Principle 2 – The Full Participation of Young People and their Families

Principle 3 – The Provision of High Quality Information

Principle 4 – Effective Transition Planning

Principle 5 – An Array of Opportunities for Living Life

APPGA Inquiry into Transition

On 9th December 2008, the (All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism) APPGA launched its first ever inquiry. The inquiry will look at the transition stage of young people on the autism spectrum from the age of 14 to 25. The inquiry will report in June 2009 with a short, concise report of six chapters covering six core issues, with action recommendations to ministers. The APPGA selected transition as the topic for its inquiry because this is an area that is often over-looked. The APPGA Manifesto progress report 'Half way there?' highlights transition as a key area for focus for policy makers. The report reveals that although there has been progress in specific areas, it is often the link between services that fails individuals on the ground. A transition from children's services can often involve a range of different agencies. Problems often occur when these agencies fail to link up. The key players in ensuring effective transition to adult life include the school, local authority, local Connexions service and social services.

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Transition Support Programme The website for the national transition support team including a link to Trans Map: from theory into practice, published in May 2009 by the Council for Disabled Children.

Transition Information Network website for parents, carers and people who work with and for disabled young people in transition to adulthood

APPGA inquiry into Transition Has invited written evidence and will be holding oral evidence sessions. The Inquiry will report in June 2009.

Autism Good Practice Guidance This guidance developed by the Autism Working Group gives practical advice to providers for children on the autism spectrum, based on existing good practice, and helps them to reflect on their own practice and examples of good practice

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Case studies



Birmingham has created the post of Transition Manager. This manager isresponsible for the transition of all vulnerable young people, including looked after children, disabled children, young people leaving care, young people with special educational needs, young people involved in substance misuse, young offenders and asylum seekers. The Transition Manager has developed a multi-agency transition policy document that has recently been agreed by city councillors as the framework for transition. The key policy principles are to improve the identification of those needing support, to create an integrated pathway and process, to provide young people with more choice and opportunities, to ensure that the infrastructure is able to meet the needsof young people, and to ensure a coordinated multi-agency approach, that leads to better outcomes for young people.

A pilot also looked at self-directed support and personalised budgets for young people in transition in Birmingham, around the In Control agenda (see the Parental Involvement section of this website for more information on In Control). The project lead was involved in the development of the Transition Pathway and was the lead implementer for Birmingham. The initial project is aimed at

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