Study information

​Moving from primary to secondary school can be a challenging time, and this may be particularly true for pupils with neurodevelopmental disorders. This research uses a cross-syndrome comparison involving children identified with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and children with Down syndrome and Williams syndrome to identify factors that aid transition from primary to secondary school. By considering the views from parents, Special Educational Needs Coordinators (SENCos), and the children themselves, this research will provide a unique insight into good practice with children with neurodevelopmental disorders moving to secondary school.

Participants are given a £10 Amazon voucher for taking part and schools can benefit from a training day by the researchers.

To sign up or for more information, please email this study’s research assistant, Maria Ashworth ( 

Please see below for answers to some previously asked questions, we hope this helps!


Who can take part?

  • Children identified with an Autism Spectrum Disorder or children with Down syndrome or Williams syndrome who are either:

-      currently in year 6 & will start secondary school in September 2019

-       or, are in a special school but will transition to a different ‘unit’ within their special school in September 2019.

  • Parents of these children and their SENCos.

What does this study entail?

  • Two non-verbal games and a short interview with the children via video call.
  • Questionnaires and a short interview with parents and SENCos.
  • Conducted in the summer term and again in Autumn 2019 at a time that suits you.


My child is non-verbal and/or has speech and language difficulties; can they still do the interview part?

  • We would like to reassure parents that the ‘interview’ is a more of an informal chat and we use non-verbal methods and tools for children that this would suit best. 
  • We have had good success with these methods thus far with low-verbal children! 
  • We are also willing to accommodate any further needs as parents may suggest.

I am unsure about the video call... what does this entail?

  • We hope the technology side is not off-putting; all parents need is a laptop/computer with a camera and we deal with the rest by sending a link on the day that you just need to click on (no sign ins or accounts necessary). 
  • If this is a problem we can also figure out other ways to do the call. Just let us know! 

What is the SENCo’s involvement and why do you need it?

  • The SENCo’s involvement conists of completing an online questionnaire - completion time is 15-20 minutes max as we know how busy SENCos are!  
  • This research does not intend to criticise or call out SENCos or the schools. We want the SENCo’s participation to learn from their experiences about good practice for a successful transition.  
  • We understand this is a valued and sensitive relationship between the parent, child and SENCo which we do not want to upset. As such, we try our upmost to accommodate any requests where necessary, and we make it clear to SENCos that their participation is entirely voluntary but would be hugely valued. 

My child is in a special school so they do not have a SENCo, what information should I give?

  • This is fine! In these cases the child’s teacher can complete the questionnaire.

What if I don’t have any information about my child’s secondary school yet?

  • This is not a problem, at this stage we only need the information from the primary school. We can get the necessary information about the secondary school in October/November 2018 once the child is at that school.
  • Do the SENCos need to agree to take part first before the parent does the questionnaire?  No this is not a problem, the SENCo is probably more likely to feel encouraged to take part if other SENCo’s and parents have already completed the study.
  Van Herwegen, J., Ashworth, M., Burchell, E., & Palikara., O. (August, 2019). Transition from primary to secondary school: the concerns of parents, professionals, and children with Down syndrome, Williams syndrome, and Autism.Paper presented at the International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Conference (IASSIDD), Glasgow, UK. Van Herwegen, J.,
Ashworth, M., Burchell, E., & Palikara., O. (September, 2018). Transition from primary to secondary school: the case of Down syndrome. Paper presented at the Down Syndrome Research Forum, The University of Reading, UK.
Van Herwegen, J., Ashworth, M., Burchell, E., & Palikara., O. (September, 2018). Transition from primary to secondary school: Down syndrome and Williams syndrome. Paper presented at the Economic Social Research Council (ESRC) Festival, The University of Roehampton, London, UK.