Transition describes the process of moving from childhood into adult life. Transition can be challenging for everyone but even more so for people with autism, their families, parents and carers. Any transition therefore needs careful planning.

We have lots of information about education and transition including guidelines on how to draw up a transition plan.

England and Wales


Transition and special educational needs (SEN)

If your child has a statement of special education needs (SEN) the school must carry out a formal transition process which will help you and your child plan for the future.

This starts when your child is in year 9 and will continue yearly until your child leaves school. At this transition review meeting the school will develop a transition plan. A transition plan is a detailed document which should highlight the future needs of an individual and how they should be met. 

If it is felt your child will need social care support in the future, social services will be informed the transition process is happening and will be invited to attend the meeting to discuss how they will be able to meet your child’s needs when they become an adult.

Young people living away from home or attending a residential school outside their own local authority

If your child lives at a residential school the school should arrange for a transition review at year 9, but your home authority should be fully involved in review meetings and plans, especially if your child will return to your home area. The plan should therefore include where they will live after they leave school and which services will support them.

Looked after children

The social worker already working to support such young people looked after by social services should be able to provide valuable insights at the review meeting. Social workers will need to work closely with a range of other professionals in drawing up long term care plans, which for some young children could include identifying adult placements and supported living placements.

Under the provisions of the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000, every eligible young person looked after by a local authority on their 16th birthday, including those with SEN, must have a Pathway Plan, mapping out the pathway to independence.

Where a young person has been looked after in a foster care or residential placement or attended a residential school outside their own local authority area, pathway for the responsible authority together with the LEA should seek to ensure liaison between all relevant LEAs and social services departments. The responsible authority will, under the provisions of the Children (Leaving Care) Act, be the local authority that is looking after the young person or, in the case of a young person who has left care, the authority that last looked after the child.

Approaching adulthood

As your child approaches adulthood, responsibility for social care will pass from children’s services to adult services.  This will happen at the age of 18, although some authorities have a period of handover between teams.

The support your son or daughter will be offered as an adult will be determined by a community care assessment, or in Wales a Unified Assessment.

The assessment should be comprehensive and should include consideration of the following needs: personal/social care, health, accommodation, finance, education/employment/leisure, transport/access and any communication (social skills), psychological or other needs associated with the ASD you have. Children and adult services work very differently and there may be a change in eligibility criteria. For more information read our guide on adult services.

Alongside this assessment if you are a carer you are also entitled to a carer’s assessment. Make sure your social services department undertake the assessment in time so there is not a gap in support from when your son or daughter is a child to when they turn 18.  For more information read our guide on support for carers.

When your child moves into adulthood you may be charged for some services. Ask to see the authority's charging policy.  For more information read our guide on charging for services.


In Scotland, provisions for transition come under the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004, as amended in 2009. 

We would expect all children and young people with an ASD to be involved in transition planning, regardless of whether they have a co-ordinated support plan or are in a specialist placement. This is because they can experience difficulty with change, putting them at risk of not making a successful transition.

At least 12 months before your child is due to leave school, your local authority must start to gather information from relevant agencies to help prepare your child for this change. Gathering this information means the authority can review what support your child has been receiving, which should in turn help decide what support your child needs in the future.

At least six months before your child is due to leave school, your local authority must pass on any helpful information to the service(s) that will be supporting your child once he/she has left school.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, if your child has a statement of special educational needs transition will be discussed and a plan drawn up at the first annual review after the young person’s 14th birthday.

Each health and social care trust will have developed eligibility criteria to allocate services – ask to see a copy of your trust’s criteria for allocating support.

Support options


Living arrangements can vary considerably depending on the level of need of the individual.  Some may wish to remain in the family home or choose to live independently. Others may require different levels of supported living, ranging from a home-help to full time residential placements. The type of housing provision and support should be established through the community care assessment or unified assessment in Wales and detailed in their care plan. Local housing departments should work alongside social services helping to identify possible housing options available to the individual.  For further information please read our guide on support options.

What if I am not happy with the decisions of social services?

If you disagree with the social care element that is written in your child’s transition plan, or if your child has been refused services that are in this plan you can consider making a complaint.

Further information



NAS information about education and transition

SEN Code of Practice and SEN Toolkit
The SEN Code of Practice for England and the SEN Toolkit are useful documents which define what is meant by terms such as Learning Difficulty, Special Educational Needs and Special Educational Provision but also explain the systems and processes that should be followed when supporting children in England with learning difficulties, disabilities and special educational needs, including the role of social services in transition.

The Department of Education guide to Planning Transition to Adulthood for Care Leavers
Provides guidance on the functions of local authorities in England in relation to care leavers.

Preparing for Adulthood
The programme Preparing for Adulthood was launched in 2011.

Transition Information Network
The Transition Information Network is an alliance of organisations and individuals who come together with a common aim: to improve the experience of disabled young people’s transition to adulthood. TIN is a source of information and good practice.


For more information about transition visit or email



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