The transition from primary to secondary school is thought to be one of the most difficult times for children on the autistic spectrum. Many girls in particular seem to cope quite well at primary school (even without an ASD diagnosis or without ASD even being suspected); and indeed it’s far more common for girls to only be diagnosed at or after puberty, rather than before. There are lots of thoughts about why this is but in this article I will write to parents about some of the difficulties that may occur for children with ASD because of the primary to secondary transition and some suggestions on what can be done to make it easier.
I would like to emphasise the huge importance of thinking about the move to secondary school well before the time actually comes. I sometimes talk to parents who tell me that their child is “only [age]” [and so] “it’s a bit too early to think about that now” but I can assure you that it is not too early to at least be somewhat aware of the challenges that may arise. Many of the challenges can be greatly reduced by preparing early or, for some things, simply by being aware of them.
Girls with ASD (in particular) are prone to suffering from mental health conditions in their teenage years. Some of these conditions, such as eating disorders, can negatively affect that person for the rest of their life. If there is the chance therefore, that we can reduce the likelihood of these conditions from arising, we should take it! Here’s my advice to parents, based on personal experience of the things that would have helped me: