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Inclusive school practices supporting the primary to secondary transition for autistic children: pupil, teacher, and parental perspectives

Keri Hoy (University of Southampton, Southampton, UK)
Sarah Parsons (University of Southampton, Southampton, UK)
Hanna Kovshoff (University of Southampton, Southampton, UK)

Advances in Autism

ISSN: 2056-3868

Article publication date: 28 August 2018

Issue publication date: 25 October 2018




The primary to secondary school transition can have a significant and long-lasting impact on young people. Autistic children are particularly vulnerable to negative transition experiences; however, there is a lack of research examining effective practices and provision for these pupils. This case study involves a mainstream secondary school in the South of England, which has a dedicated Learning Support base. The purpose of this paper is to collect qualitative data on experiences of the primary to secondary school transition from multiple stakeholders.


A photovoice activity followed by a semi-structured interview was conducted with five autistic pupils aged 12–16 years; semi-structured interviews were also carried out with six parents and four teachers.


Five key themes emerged from the data in relation to effective practices: inclusion, child-centred approach, familiarisation, visual supports and communication and consistency.

Research limitations/implications

As a small-scale case study, there are limitations regarding generalisation. However, this research illuminates transition practices that are experienced as effective by autistic children, their families and teachers.

Practical implications

Practical implications related to each of these themes are highlighted. These implications are important in the context of the mandatory responsibilities of schools in England to include the voices of children and young people with special educational needs in decisions about their education.


The findings challenge a rights-based approach to inclusion and illustrate the importance of a needs-based approach which appropriately recognises and understands what autism means for children, their families and the teachers who support them.



The authors very gratefully acknowledge the engagement and interest of everyone who took part in this study, as well as the ACoRNS team more widely for supporting, and contributing to, the research. ACoRNS was established with funding from the University of Southampton’s Public Engagement with Research unit (PERu).


Hoy, K., Parsons, S. and Kovshoff, H. (2018), "Inclusive school practices supporting the primary to secondary transition for autistic children: pupil, teacher, and parental perspectives", Advances in Autism, Vol. 4 No. 4, pp. 184-196.



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