Part 1: Supporting autistic students with transition
Transition from primary to secondary school is one of the most significant changes a young person will make in their life.
Echuca College recognised the need for a robust transitions program to ensure a positive experience for its new Year 7 students that come from more than a dozen local primary schools.
Jessica Sargeant, Principal, says a smooth and positive transition sets students up for success. “The college has done a lot of work over the past 18 months to develop strong relationships with its feeder primary schools to build a comprehensive transitions program.”
It’s a program that supports all students, and specifically caters for students with disability and additional needs.
“I can’t emphasise enough the importance of relationships and personalising learning for successful transitions,” says Jessica. “It’s about getting more information about the students, earlier. We’re starting the transitions program now in Term 1 of the previous year.”
Echuca College has established a wellbeing and inclusion team to lead its transitions program and support strong relationships with primary schools. “Our feeder schools are educating us about what students we’re going to be receiving and what we need to do to support them,” says Jessica.
She says secondary school is “a whole new ball game” for students. “Firstly, our grounds here are so much bigger and there are so many more students. Some of our students come from small schools where there may be 10 kids in their year. In secondary school, you’ve got multiple teachers, they go from having 1 or 2 to maybe 8, and they’re moving from classroom to classroom.”
Jessica says transition can be stressful for any student, and it can be particularly challenging for autistic students. “To support autistic students and ease many of those stresses, we have lots of support group meetings with their primary schools to make sure we understand their needs and give them the right support.”
“All of our teachers are involved in making adjustments, every student does a ready-to-learn plan. We look at their learning strengths, their learning challenges and what we need to do and document those adjustments that we make.”
The school also has therapy dogs, which students can access to help them regulate. There are lunchtime clubs and other activities that cater for students’ various interests and help foster connections with other students. The school also minimises disruptions for students by having the teachers move between classrooms instead of the students.