Transition from secondary school can be one of the most life-changing events a young person and their family faces, and the process is often difficult and confusing. Decisions made as we prepare to leave school can have an impact on the rest of our lives. This information relates to transition in England. Find information for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

It’s important that autistic pupils, their families and others in their circle of support are involved in planning early. This is to ensure that they are engaged and supported appropriately so that decisions are informed.

Involving everyone in the circle of support

A successful transition plan should involve everyone in a young person’s life who knows them well, and also those who can help to make the things the young person wants to happen.   Planning should be person centred focusing on what the young person wants for their future and what matters to them.

Transitions are a journey where we look at the options we have ahead of us. These can include:

  • going to college 
  • applying to university 
  • applying for day opportunities
  • looking for a job or apprenticeship
  • volunteering opportunties
  • moving to our own home or residential accommodation.
The young person may already have an ideal job in mind, or a dream to live in a particular place. Their ideas should be taken seriously so that specific goals that are positive and possible. For example:

I want to be an actor

Goal 1: Study the work of someone you admire.
Goal 2: Join a local drama or theatre group. 
Goal 3: Look into performance arts courses at colleges and theatre schools.

I want to work with animals

Goal 1: Read books or watch TV programmes on animal behaviour and care.
Goal 2: Volunteer at a local animal shelter.
Goal 3: Find out about animal care college courses.

Engaging and supporting the young person

How a young person communicates should not be a barrier to them contributing to their transition. Any planning should allow for them to contribute in the way that is most meaningful to them.

If it's felt that a young person doesn't have the capacity to make their own choices, families and professionals should look at creative ways to include their preferences. This might mean using visual supports, and assessing and recording their reaction as evidence.

Where more than one local authority (LA) is involved with a young person's plan, there is a duty for each of them to be co-operative. This is important to make sure that they work together to carry out an assessments and provide correct information and advice.

Continuing education

A young person may decide to stay in sixth form or move into further education. Thought should be given to how they can be supported to reduce anxiety throughout the process.

Regardless of whether or not a young person has an education, health and care plan, early decision-making and support strategies can help them. This may include:

  • new support staff working with the young person prior to the move
  • visiting the new environment to meet staff and peers
  • using social stories™ or visual supports.

Education, health and care (EHC) plans can be accessible for children and young people from 0-25 years of age, if the young person stays in some form of education or training.  Students going to university are not be eligible for a plan.

Before a plan can be issued, the local authority (LA) makes an education, health and care needs assessment of their special educational needs (SEN).

Planning to leave school can be a long process, often taking more than two years. The Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice (SEND) in England states that LAs must ensure that the EHC plan review at Year 9, and every review thereafter, includes a focus on preparing for adulthood.

Year 9

The school should aim to help children explore their aspirations and how different post-16 education options may help them fulfil them.

Year 10

The young person and their family should be supported to explore more specific courses or places to study so that provisional plans can be prepared.

Year 11

The young person and their family should be supported to make their plans definite and familiarise themselves with the expected new setting. This should include contingency plans, such as what to do if they don't get the required exam results.

The LA must also publish information about the provision they expect to be available in their area for children and young people from 0 to 25 who have a SEN. This is called the local offer.

Using tools such as The National Autistic Society’s This is me! self-assessment profile can also help young people decide what they would like included in their plan during transition.


The SEND code of practice states that 19-25 year olds with an EHC plan should have free access to education, in the same way as a 16-18 year old does. The local authority and education funding agency are responsible for this funding.

If your young person has a special educational need but not an EHC plan, they may meet the criteria for government funding.

Choosing further or higher education 

It’s important for a young person wanting to go to college or university to think through the implications of this. Adults involved in helping them plan for transition should make sure that they consider university course choices and accommodation decisions carefully. 

Useful information about universities can be found on their website. You can also search the Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) or Which? University.

Read more about starting college or university

Finding employment

The National Careers Service can offer help with finding suitable employment or training. 

Read employment guidance for autistic adults.

Benefits and community care

Autistic students and their families may be entitled to financial support in the form of social security benefits and social care support.

Read more about benefits and care.   

The amount of support will depend of personal circumstances.  For example, a young autistic adult may be able to care for themselves independently or it is possible that you and or others will continue to care for them. 

Find further information about support options

Further help from our charity

The Transition Support Service

A free and confidential telephone and email service that can provide support and information on all areas of the transition process.

Call: 0808 800 0027

Our Autism Services Directory gives information on autism services in your area. 

Online resources

Further education courses and funding – Government information

Transitions toolkit – Autism Education Trust

Finished at school guide – Ambitious about autism

My future choices - Transition Information Network. 


Personalisation in Practice by Suzie Franklin with Helen Sanderson.


Transitions Information Network
Tel: 020 7843 6006

Last reviewed: 11 August 2016.