Supporting self-determination of autistic students in transitions

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Research in Developmental Disabilities


Background: Despite awareness of the need to support autistic students in transitions, great variability is found in transition supports provided across different school environments and staff within schools. Moreover, strategies implemented may not provide autistic students with the supports they need to reduce their anxiety and build their sense of self-determination during transitions. Aim: The current paper aimed to determine what types of transition supports are employed in Australian schools to support autistic students and to consider these supports through the lens of self-determination theory. Methods: Surveys were conducted with 422 parents, educators and education specialists who provided information on transition supports employed in schools in open-ended questions. Transition supports were explored in more depth through interviews with a subset of 30 participants. Results: Findings indicate that schools provided a range of strategies, programmes and planning processes to support students in transitions. However, students were often passive recipients of supports who were rarely involved in the planning and implementation of strategies. Conclusion: The results of this study suggest that current transition supports implemented in schools may support autistic students in some transitions, but are not likely to develop their self-determination to successfully navigate transitions over the long-term. What this paper adds?: Drawing on self-determination theory, this study provides a unique and much needed examination of the types of strategies employed in schools and offers a critical reflection as to whether these strategies are likely to support autistic students to develop a sense of autonomy, competence and relatedness to successfully manage future transitions.

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