Transition plan

People on the autism spectrum respond better to transition and change when it is supported by a planning process with involvement from parents/carers, teachers, allied health professionals and the student themselves. Many schools provide ‘orientation’ opportunities where new students and their families may visit the new school and meet with staff and become familiar with the physical environment. Transition plans are a more detailed plan of how the student will be supported to change environments and when and who will implement this plan.

What is a transition plan?
A transition plan (TP) is a critical document in supporting anticipated changes in a student’s environment. It focuses on gaining a shared understanding of needs by all those involved to ensure individual student requirements are met successfully. TPs can be succinct or extensive, depending on the level of forewarning and planning around change required by each individual, as this may vary greatly.

Transition points include key milestones of:

  • beginning pre-school
  • pre-school to school
  • primary school to secondary school
  • secondary school to post school options 

Transition points also include:

  • between one school year and the next
  • transition to different events at school 

Other key transitions that can have an impact on the student at school are things that happen in the family such as:

  • moving house
  • a new sibling
  • a death in the family
  • changing shopping venue
  • travelling to school along a different route 

Transitions also occur on a daily basis:

  • moving classrooms
  • moving to the playground
  • having lessons in specialised rooms, such as the music room
  • having a replacement teacher 

Who can complete the transition plan?
The TP is completed by a student/child’s support team and will usually include parents/carers, school staff from the settings involved (e.g. current and receiving schools) and where applicable, allied health professionals and the student themselves.

What does a transition plan do?
A TP helps a team to develop a schedule of tasks required to facilitate a successful change in the student’s learning environment. A TP:

  • outlines whether, and to what extent, a new school environment may need to have accommodations made to support the student e.g. change light globes, provide a quiet area for recess and lunch
  • assists teachers and parents to prioritise areas of need to minimise student stress and maximise successful experiences 

What are the components of the transition plan?
 It is important to identify and decide what type of TP best suits each school context and student need. For this reason, no two TPs will be the same. Generally, a well designed TP will include the following:

  • what change is about to occur, where and when
  • what is required, by whom and when
  • reaction of the individual to previous transitions if known (history)
  • creating supports – visual sequences, social scripts, transition stories, sensory supports, short movie (based on information gained from the Planning Matrix or learner profile)
  • evaluation of the plan for future use

Why use a transition plan?
A well developed transition plan sets the student up for a successful move to another environment, accept new staff members and cope more readily with change.

Considerations when developing a transition plan:
It is important to consider and develop a clear process to support a student’s transition. Steps include:

  • meet with key stakeholders and parents to develop the plan
  • provide enough time to carry out the plan, as the student may need several visits over the previous semester if changing schools
  • develop a calendar or diary - determine dates
  • use the calendar as a countdown to visits
  • plan what activities/areas will be the focus of each visit
  • who will the student meet and where?
  • take photos of the new classes, library, canteen environment, visual school rules and boundaries
  • create a map and use colours to highlight areas of interest
  • establish a safety net and mentor or buddy system
  • handover existing supports to new school/staff
  • provide a copy of supports created for home
  • discuss how home-school communication systems will operate in the new setting

Watch a video recording from one of our previous webinars about managing transitions: