Helpful Hints: Tips for Transition

School children looking at their teacher

A transition is a change

In education the term transition is often used to refer to the time when children or young people move from one year group to another, from one school or setting to another or from education to adulthood.

Most children and young people find these changes difficult, but for children with additional needs, transitions can be particularly problematic.  

Below are some tips to help your child or young person with transition. 

  • explain the change in small chunks to allow your child to process the information. Use pictures or visual cues where appropriate and repeat important information to ensure that your child understands
  • explain as much as you can about what will be the same or different in the new situation. For example, uniform, teachers, classmates, facilities, rules, and timetable. The use of visual cues, such as a same or different chart, photos, pictures or symbols can help with this and your child can look at them as many times as they need to leading up to the transition
  • prepare your child for the transition early, use visual supports such as a countdown or calendar to help them to understand when events will take place   
  • find out what your child is worried about and help them to prepare using social stories or relaxation methods such as deep breathing techniques. See our information on managing anxiety for further tips. The National Autistic Society have information on what social stories are, how they help and how you can write your own (opens in a new window)
  • encourage your child to ask questions about the transition. If they feel more comfortable, they could write them down. If you are unable to answer their questions, ask their current or new teacher or school to go through them with your child
  • find out what they are looking forward to and use these ideas to create positive conversations about the transition
  • talk to your child’s teacher or setting about what they have planned to help the children with the transition. Schools often hold transition lessons or days where children get to meet their new teacher(s) and visit their new classroom(s) or school facilities. During Covid this might be a little different. Some schools might hold virtual meetings with new teachers or produce a virtual video tour of the classroom or school building 
  • it might be that the school or setting has planned some individual transition activities for your child to help them to prepare. Or, if this is something that you think would be beneficial, you could talk to your child’s setting about what they could offer
  • some children may benefit from making a photo book, with pictures of their new teacher(s), classroom, playground, uniform etc. You can then use this as a way of talking about the transition at home with your child. They can look at this as many times as they need to help them to understand the changes
  • you could prepare some information about your child to pass on to their new teacher to help them to get to know your child. This could include things your child likes, things they find difficult and information on strategies that have worked well to support them. You could use our One Page Profile as a template for this
  • practice the school run to prepare your child for their new journey. If they are transitioning to secondary school, they may be travelling to school on their own. Plan out the route that they will take and what time they will need to leave the house to arrive on time 
  • consider areas of the new setting that your child might find difficult, such as busy or noisy areas like the playground or dining hall. Communicate these difficulties to their new teacher or setting and discuss ways to manage them
  • make sure your child knows who to ask for help in their new setting
  • if your child is transitioning to secondary school encourage self-organisation. Start to prepare your child for managing their timetable. You could use a visual timetable, prompt cards or check lists to do this. Remind them to check their timetable every evening and organise the things that they will need for the next day
  • if your child is anxious about the transition, the use of a ‘What If’ chart might help. This includes your child’s worries e.g. What if I need help? And then a response to these worries e.g. You will be with a teacher all the time and if you need help you can ask them, and they will help you. Or What if I find the playground too noisy? You can go to the agreed quiet place. You can then go through this chart with your child over the days leading up to the transition
  • if your child is transitioning to secondary school, they may be concerned about finding their way around. Discuss with the setting how this will be managed and ask for a map of the school. Share this with your child and familiarise them with the different areas of the building  
  • keep the communication channels open and encourage your child to continue to share their worries or concerns with you in a way that suits them. This could be through discussion, written notes or pictures and visual cues