Autistic students need extra support in transition to college, report says

14th October 2016 at 11:46
autism college transition
Young people with autism transitioning from school to FE face difficulties, according to a paper by a University of Sussex academic

Extra support should be offered to young people with autism who transition into a further education college from a special school, as well as their parents, according to new research. Fellow non-autistic students should also be involved.

A paper by Dr Jacqui Shepherd, from the University of Sussex, finds that while potentially unsettling for any young person, the move from a protected school environment to a large, busy mainstream FE college could be particularly challenging for young people with autism.

This, she says, was due to their desire for predictability and difficulty in adapting to change. The research focused on a small group of young people going through that transition from a special school to an FE college, but also involved their parents, teachers, lecturers and careers advisers.

While some of the young people in the research made reasonably smooth transitions to college, there were difficulties and challenges, the thesis states, “almost entirely within the area of social interaction”.

Dr Shepherd concludes that in order for young people with autism to progress both academically and socially, there needed to be a greater understanding of autism within the whole college community and proper attention given to personalising the transition process to ensure that these young learners could realise their capabilities.

Last year, TES reported charity Ambitious about Autism was offering training courses for college staff to support students with autism transition. 

Dr Shepherd said both young people and parents needed support during and after the transition from school to college, and non-autistic college students should also play their part. Dr Shepherd told TES: “It’s really important college tutors involve non-autistic college students in this transition process to help promote a more inclusive environment. What is obvious from my research is that young people and parents need support during and after transition to college.

“As one mother said ‘It’s like sending your 12-year-old to college’ – in other words, young people with autism are likely to be more dependent on their parents for support than other students at 16 so colleges need to involve parents accordingly. This relationship between the student, parents and tutors can be very effective in ensuring successful transition through the gradual withdrawal of support to encourage greater independence where it is possible and a thriving interdependence where it is not.”

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