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Please be aware that this section contains information prepared in 2009 and may now be out of date.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.


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Case studies


Preparing for and managing change is important for all children, but this is particularly so for those on the autism spectrum. Introducing a change to an already established routine can cause huge anxiety and distress to the individual. Knowledge of the individual and what they are likely to require before transition is essential.  

Young people on the autism spectrum have the same aspirations for the future as their peers, and with varying levels of support they can live full and often independent lives. The aspirations of children in the National Autistic Society report Make School Make Sense (2006) contrast sharply with the reality experienced by many adults with autism. Only 6% of people withautism, and 12% of people with Asperger’s syndrome, are in full-time paidemployment.

This failure in the system to support people on the autism spectrum has repercussions for the individual, their families and for public expenditure. The NAS points out that 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.

The key transition phases:

  • Starting pre-school or playschool 
  • Starting primary school 
  • Moving from primary school to secondary school 
  • 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

Transition planning for pupils with statements of SEN

The evidence that is collected for the Year 9 review – the transition review – must have an additional focus on the needs of the young person when they finish compulsory education. Although many will continue in school, some will move into further education, employment or training and their statement will end. Connexions must attend the transition review meeting and may have already drawn up an action plan with the young person. The head teacher must invite social services and inform health authorities and trusts of the meeting.

Parents must be invited and the young person themselves will generally attend, The SEN Code says that the views of young people should be sought and recorded wherever possible. There may need to be advocacy and support from the Connexions personal adviser, social worker, peer support or, most commonly, parents. After the meeting the head teacher ensures that a transition plan is drawn up which pulls together information from within and beyond school. Year 9 reviews are the start of a longer process for making decisions about a young person’s future. Subsequent reviews may amend or add to the transition plan.

The local authority has a legal responsibility to ensure an assessment of the needs of pupils with a statement who are in their final year of compulsory schooling and who intend to go on to further or higher education. Having carried out the assessment or delegated that responsibility to the Connexions Service they must identify provision. Personal advisers are expected to assess how a young person’s particular needs are affected by, or impact on, each of the 18 factors that the Connexions framework covers – these are 18 areas of personal and social development within education and employment, personal health, social and behavioural development and family and environmental factors. Local authorities have the power to arrange assessments for other young people with special educational needs but without statements, but there is no legal requirement for them to do so.

If a young person and/or their parent wants to stay on at school beyond 16 and the local authority want to ‘cease to maintain’ the young person’s statement and are recommending that they go to college then before the local authority ends the statement it must have identified suitable provision.

The Transition Planning booklet within the SEN Toolkit says that the transition plan should address the following questions relating to the young person, their parents, school and professionals:


  • What further information does the young person need to make informed choices?
  • What local arrangements exist to provide advocacy and advice and does the young person want such support?
  • How can the young person be encouraged to contribute to their plan and take positive decisions about the future?
  • What are the young person’s hopes and aspirations and does their personal action plan cover these to their satisfaction?
  • Are there special issues relating to the location of services when they leave school?
  • What do parents expect as their child moves into adult life and what can they contribute?
  • Will parents experience new care needs and require practical help?
  • What are the young person’s curriculum needs during transition?
  • How can the curriculum help their social and personal development?
  • Do they need the curriculum to be adapted in Key stage 4?
  • Do they need any special examination arrangements or concessions?
  • How can liaison with other agencies help with transition of the young person?
  • Which new professionals need to be involved in transition planning?
  • Does the young person have any special health or welfare needs that require future support?
  • Are clear assessment arrangements agreed between all agencies?
  • How can information best be transferred to adult services?
  • Is there training and other support where a young person requires a particular technological aid?
  • Is education post 16 appropriate and if so will this be at school or college or is work-based training more appropriate?

The NAS report 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.


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 would aim 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 would be 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; and 13 LAs would receive 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.

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 with autism from the age of 14 to 25. The inquiry will report in June 2009 on the 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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Get help from...


Transition Information Network A website dedicated to providing information about all the different phases involved in disabled young people’s transition to adulthood.

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.

Transiition planning: SEN Toolkit

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APPGA inquiry into Transition Reporting 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


Transition from early years to school – Essex, Teachernet good practice example

Transition from primary to secondary – Nottinghamshire, Teachernet good practice example

Transition to adult services

Sunfield School is a West Midlands residential special school for young people with severe and complex learning needs and challenging behaviours. A Transitions Solutions Adviser has spent three years looking at improving the Transition process in the school after it was found that a large number of placements broke down in a short space of time, and that for some young people multiple placement breakdowns had resulted in them being sectioned under the Mental Health Act.  

Previously young people may have been moved on with very little prior warning, due to fears this would increase anxiety and as a consequence result in an escalation in difficult behaviour. Transition and moving on has now been made a normal part of life at Sunfield, with regular discussions in class about the next steps. Young people are now supported to go and visit some of their peers who have previously left the school, to see what it is like to have moved into an adult service, and classes will then discuss these visits. Young people may also have pen pals, who are students that have already moved on. This also supports other members of the class, perhaps not yet due to move on, to understand what happens when their friends are no longer at the school.

Sunfield works with staff from the new adult service throughout the transition process, to ensure that they are able to effectively support the young person. It begins with the Transitions Solution Adviser talking to service providers about the needs of the individual young person, and providing them with a copy of the young person’s profile. New providers are then invited to send staff to stay in the family accommodation at the school, to enable the new staff to work alongside the school staff, and to therefore allow the young person to become familiar with the new staff, and the new staff to learn how to effectively support the young person.

New providers are also encouraged to contact the school during the first few difficult months following the young person’s transition to the adult placement. If they have any areas that they are struggling with, they can receive advice from the school about how those issues have been dealt with in the past. Transition to employmentThe London borough of Richmond has several social enterprises being developed, and these will provide opportunities for young people to develop employment skills, and access employment. The social enterprises are being developed through the local college, with funding from the Quality Improvement Agency. There is currently a social enterprise that collects furniture, restores it and sells it on Ebay and through its own shop. There is also some work going on with Farm Fresh Express supporting the development of a “green shop.” Richmond has a Transition into Employment Steering Group, looking at how to develop these opportunities.

A number of examples of good practice in relation to transition are available from the West Midlands SEN Regional Partnership website

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