Section 4: Know how to support individuals with transitions and life events

Q12: Identify a range of life events and transitions that individuals may experience. (4.1)
Regardless of age or additional needs, an individual will experience a variety of different life events and transitions. For anyone, these can be difficult but for someone with additional needs, it can make them more vulnerable. Life events can include loss and bereavement, which can trigger challenging behaviour due to misunderstanding and social delays, as well as puberty as this can be a quite different experience and moving home, the change of this can trigger challenging behaviour. Transitions can be
as small as transitions between activities or be bigger, such as moving schools or moving up to secondary or college.

Q13: Give reasons why individuals with autism may find these transitions difficult. (4.2)
Progression and change can be difficult for those with autism so any educational transitions can be hard to deal with. The new sets of social cues and standards can be difficult to quickly adjust as someone without autism may be able to. There can also be a negative reaction to new groups of people which can trigger behaviour that challenging. Puberty can also be difficult to handle as there isn’t much anyone can do to stop it. The changes in brain structure and physical changes to the body can be difficult to control and handle as it occurs and therefore can be challenging for those with autism.
Moving home can be another difficult obstacle as it is out of the individual’s control and may be out of the parents’ control. There can be lots of challenging things with moving home, from new schools, new routines and new routes from home to school. A new group of friends and new neighbourhoods might be too challenging and may cause the individual to want to return to their previous home. With loss and bereavement, it can be difficult to control the timing. This can be difficult for any individual but may hit someone with autism harder, especially if they were close to the individual. The loss of a close family member can negatively affect routines and changes and therefore may cause challenging behaviour, anxiety and stress. In some cases, this can cause low mood.

Q14: Identify ways that individuals can be supported through transitions. (4.3)
Just like with any support for an individual with autism, it will always be important to stay person-centred. This includes using the individual’s preferred communication style and following this can make the individual feel less stressed and worried. Social stories can also be key to helping identify thoughts and feelings and support the individual through the experience of transition. Other ways can be returning to the adapted routine and reward system which can mean the individual is rewarded for changing to a new routine for moving house or starting a new school which can positively benefit the individual.

Q15: Describe how to involve others in the transition process. (4.4)
It’s important to involve everyone close to the individual within a transition process. It can sometimes be hard to do especially at times when the individual is displaying behaviour that challenges. Family members can be the first port of call for distressing transitions as they can usually return some of the routine and safety. It may be necessary to speak to the family member about intervention if the individual is taking the transition process particularly badly. Other professionals may also need to get involved if things progress for the worse. This can include psychologists, sensory specialists, social workers, or counsellors, and this can usually be a one-off or become a routine. Involving friends may also be a nice distraction for the individual and teaching them about the body as it goes through puberty as part of the school routine can be incredibly beneficial.