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Findings of the Grange Park Transition Project

Louise Elliott, Managing Director at the Autism Consortium, looks at the results of a Transition Project focussing on successful transition to secondary school carried out between January 2016 and January 2017 in Kent. She wrote about the project in an article published on Network Autism in July 2016. 

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Author: Louise Elliott

Findings of the Grange Park Transition Project

The Project

25 students diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attending a mainstream school took part.  The children were spread across 18 primary schools and were transitioning to different secondary schools.  These comprised academies, specialist resource provisions, comprehensive, grammar and independent schools.

Aims of the project

This project look at the transition of 25 autistic students from primary to secondary school setting.

Approach 

The focus was to provide support to the children in a timely manner throughout the year, preparing them through the provision of two newly created booklets devised to incorporate recent research and traditional transition tools:

  • The “My Autism” booklet
  • The “My school Plan” booklet 

(see previous article for full details of the booklets)  

These booklets were supported by:

  • building self-awareness and coping strategies
  • visiting their new schools with teacher two or three times per month throughout the summer 
  • arranging a family get together session. 

Evaluation

Various tools were used to gather data about the personal characteristics of each pupil's autism using formal assessments rated by teachers, pupils and parents:

Parents used:

  • Children Communication Checklist (CCC) to assess communication and social skills 
  • Sensory Processing Measure (SPM) to assess sensory sensitivities 
  • Personal Details Questionnaires (including schooling and diagnosis or diagnoses) 

Class teachers and SENCO used:

  • Children's Autism Rating Scale  (CARS)
  • Adaptive Behaviour Assessment Schedule (ABAS)

The pupils used a Children's Self Esteem Inventory (CSFEI) to assess their self-esteem.

The evaluation of how successful the transition had been was measured in three ways:

  • attendance figures for term 1
  • whether the children were 'in school or out of school' at the end of term 2 (December 2016)
  • teachers, parents and the pupils rated the success of the transition via a questionnaire  

Findings

  • 92% of the participants made a successful transition. Attendance was higher for the children who had an EHCP (92% as opposed to 90% for children in mainstream schools). All but one child who had an EHCP chose to attend a school with a Specialist Resource Provision (SRP).
  • The pupils with the lowest abilities did not have an EHCP. Those pupils’ needs fell within the learning disability range were therefore expected to transfer to an ordinary mainstream school with little support. 
  • The children with the highest IQ attended less. (A significant negative correlation was found between the BPVS (IQ) score and attendance score (This was surprising and is potentially related to high levels of anxiety and the ability to 'over' think potential outcomes and actions of others, and therefore to worry themselves about possible difficulties arising.)
  • Adaptive behaviour, overall communication skills and sensory sensitivities had no impact upon a successful transition. (This contradicts initial thoughts that having ADHD or PDA would undermine transition success. Children with these difficulties may have presented some challenges to teachers, but they were popular with peers.)
  • The 'extent' of a person's autism (determined by CARS) had no impact upon the success of a transition. (This supports the view of a dynamic and 3 dimensional approach to autism; identifying each person's individualised personal autism profile.)

Conclusion

The children whose transition was most successful had:

  • low average IQ
  • higher self-esteem
  • greater social communication competence
  • parents who understood their needs, had a secure, trusting relationship with their children and had confidence in the school team
  • an EHCP allowing entry to a specialist provision

The project also suggests that there are indicators that a greater level of support may be required for those with:

  • a higher IQ
  • low self-esteem
  • high levels of anxiety
  • complex family relationships
  • a history of school refusal.

Date added: 29 March 2017