Top Tips for successful transitions with children who have special educational needs

During any transition planning, it is important to consider the difficulties which we know children and young people with SEND are likely to struggle with. For example, they might struggle greatly with the executive functioning skills required to switch attention, organise, plan and regulate emotions during transitions. They might also struggle with changes to their routine or in other ways in which appear obvious. However, it is highly likely that most children would benefit from forward planning, advanced warning and the opportunity to ask questions. Therefore, the following tips are not necessarily only for those with SEND but are tips which could potentially benefit most children and young people.
Start by gaining the views of the child. Whether they are transitioning between schools or classes, it’s important to understand what they like, don’t like, want, don’t want in order to plan carefully and appropriately. You could use the ChatterPack Resource - 1-10 scale, changing the scenarios suggested to those which might come up during transitions.
Consider the language you use when seeking views of the child. It can be tricky to ask questions without leading especially if the child struggles with language, but it’s important that the child’s views are authentic and accurate. Try to listen to responses without adding meaning, especially if the child is a literal thinker. Seeking clarification is important and can be done in a non-leading way, e.g. with sentence starters. ‘you said you like x, you like x because…..’
Work with parents and seek their knowledge of what does and doesn’t work at home. By analysing this information together, it can help with planning in school, it keeps everyone informed and encourages joint working.
Consider all transitions which happen throughout the day. For example, moving from one area of the classroom to another as well as from one classroom to another. From task to task, into/out of break times and back to working, etc. Analyse what works and what doesn’t work during these times. This could give helpful clues to aid planning, but also ideas to pass onto the next class, teacher or school in order to effectively support the child.
Many anxious children seek to control and can do so in various ways. It can look like manipulation or stubbornness, however, it’s often an unconscious reaction to fear or other strong emotions. Recognising if and how they seek control can help to adapt your approach. Try acknowledging the emotion but via a suggestion rather than label. For example, ‘you look worried’, or ‘you seem a bit sad about X’ rather than ‘I know you’re worried’ etc. Or you could try offering choices that allow an element of control but using an adult-led, structured approach.
Give the child as much information as they need whilst being aware that sometimes too much information can cause more anxiety, and adapt to individual needs by using visuals, drawings, mind maps, etc. Any visits to a new environment might need careful planning. Does the child need to see the new environment as early as possible? Or does warning to far in advance cause more anxiety? Does the child need to see the environment empty? Or as it will be when they have transitioned? Would it help to look at photographs of the new environment first? If so, which areas or people are important to them to see or meet first?
If the child is transitioning to another school, it might help them to have practical information which they can keep. Such as a basic map which details where toilets and classrooms are. A list of staff photos, job titles, and names. A detailed timetable. A list of the school and class rules which includes things important to the child. For example, are there any rules around times when they can use the toilet? When they can access SEN equipment such as sensory toys etc.
Have as much support in place as possible right at the start. It’s common for adults to consider a ‘wait and see’ approach, but using a proactive approach instead can avoid unnecessary struggling, encourage a much smoother transition and potentially mean that support can be reduced faster.
Make sure all staff are aware of individual needs and how to support the child or young person. ChatterPack has a free transition passport template that you can download.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published