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Impact on Social Skills AND Behaviour

Difficulty coping with change is a part of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and should always be treated with understanding and support. Transitioning to a new school, new class or having a different teacher can present an enormous amount of new social and communicative challenges for the student with ASD.

Examples of difference when transitioning between classrooms:


In education environments, the word transition usually means a move from one setting to another (such as the move from kindergarten to school, or primary to secondary school). However, students encounter many small transitions throughout the day. A student with ASD may perceive a “small” change or transition as very significant even though others do not. Students with ASD may display behaviour of concern or increased anxiety as a response to the many small transitions in their day.


Examples of “small” changes are:

  • seating the student at a different desk,
  • telling students part-way through a task to disregard a particular question or aspect of the task,
  • changing classroom routines, especially when this occurs without prior warning,
  • asking the student to use a pen instead of a pencil,
  • changing the way that work is handed in when finished,
  • asking the student to work with a different partner.

When a student with ASD is confronted with such changes, they may become overwhelmed, resulting in extreme anxiety, behaviours of concern, or a “meltdown”. When behavioural records are kept for students, it is often noted that transition-times are peak times for inappropriate behaviour.


It is important to note that even when a student is well prepared for change they may still find certain transitions very difficult. Students with ASD will respond better when teachers give prior warning about change, provide structure during times of tranisition and teach the student strategies for managing transitions at school.  At times it may be necessary to alter expectations or adapt the difficulty-level of learning tasks. For further information on strategies to support students with transitions click here.