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School transition programme for youths with autism spectrum problems

Publication date: 01 September 2015

Youngsters with autism spectrum problems are expected to increasingly participate in mainstream education. This isn't always easy. Especially the transition from the familiar primary school to the often larger and busier secondary school is often experienced as a problem not only by the teenager, but also by parents and teachers. Together with other researchers, practical professionals and the target group, Research Centre of Innovations in Care is going to research a prevention programme in the study Moving, in which youths with autism spectrum problems, their teachers and parents are supported in the transition to secondary education.



Youths with autism spectrum problems find it hard to make contact with other people and must make a great effort not to be overwhelmed by the many stimuli that they are facing in a new environment. Especially in the transition from the primary school to secondary education, there is a lot they have to cope with, such as unknown pupils and teachers, many changes in classes, confusion about what the purpose of free hours is and the school yard. For youths with autism spectrum problems, these are often scaring situations, in which they have trouble not to succumb. A result may be that their learning performance diminishes, they feel lonely and vulnerable, are nagged, and no longer want to go to school. It is, therefore, important to see to a smooth school transition. This offers children optimal opportunities to develop their talents and build up successful careers.

In England, a school transition programme (Transition Pack) has been set up for these youths and the first results are promising. Together with RUAS (Research Centre of Innovations in Care) and the department Children and Youth Psychiatry of the Erasmus MC , Leiden University of Applied Sciences has good contacts with the researchers of this programme. In this cooperation, a RAAK-PRO subsidy has been obtained to make this school transition programme suitable for use in the Netherlands.

Project description

With the future prevention programme, the researchers aim to offer good, smoothly running school transitions to young persons with autism spectrum problems. In this manner, these youths get optimal opportunities to develop their talents and to build up a successful career.

The study Moving consists of two stages. The first stage concerns the translation and making usable of the English Transition Pack (TP) for the Dutch educational system. It appears from recent British research that this prevention programme significantly reduces the behavioural and emotional difficulties of young persons with autism spectrum problems during the transition from the primary school to the school for secondary education. The second phase concerns the research of the effectiveness of the Dutch version of the Transition Pack compared to the diversity of regular support that the relevant schools offer right now during the transition from primary education to secondary education.

The research closely connects to the expertise of Patricia Vuijk’s research group Public Care and Prevention for Young persons by. This study also builds on successful experiences and learning points in both the wrapped up and the pending projects within her research line, including the FLOW study. The research is additionally embedded in the Academic Consortium Autism ‘Do it Together!’.

Development TP-Dutch version (TP-NL)

Stage 1 aims to make the Transition Pack (TP) usable for the Dutch mainstream schools in primary and secondary education. This part consists of a number of steps:

  1. translate the TP into Dutch;
  2. adjust this translation and make it suitable for the Dutch educational system;
  3. implement these adjustments in consultation with the authors of the TP;
  4. retranslate the adjusted TP-NL, so that the authors of the TP can find out whether the setup of the TP has remained the same.

Stage 1 was started up in September 2015. This will be rounded off with a pilot study among youths with autism spectrum problems, their parents and teachers, to find out whether the Dutch Transition Pack can be applied successfully in schools in primary and secondary education as well as in the home situation of the youths.

Time path

In September 2015, the translation, adjustment and retranslation of the Transition Pack were started up. In January 2016, a pilot study was set up. In September 2016, the TP-NL will be finished and a training package will have been realised to familiarise this Dutch Transition Pack in schools.


Stage 2 aims to study the effectiveness of the Dutch Transition Pack (TP-NL). This is done in two ways: 

  1. In order to find out in which manner the regular coaching of youths with autism spectrum problems from primary and secondary education has an effect on the experienced fear of youths in the period before the quasi-experiments is effected, there will be a basis measuring (the so-called T0) in September 2016. In this basis measuring, only youths (and their parents) with autism spectrum problems who have just started at their school for secondary education, are asked to complete three lists of questions.
  2. The question of whether TP-NL is an effective programme is answered by using a quasi-experiment with an experimental condition (the schools where use is made of the Transition Pack) and a control condition (the so-called ‘transition as usual’).