Systematic Reviews
Copyright ©The Author(s) 2017. Published by Baishideng Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved.
World J Psychiatr. Sep 22, 2017; 7(3): 184-196
Published online Sep 22, 2017. doi: 10.5498/wjp.v7.i3.184
Transition to school for children with autism spectrum disorder: A systematic review
Annabel Marsh, Vanessa Spagnol, Rachel Grove, Valsamma Eapen
Annabel Marsh, Vanessa Spagnol, Rachel Grove, Valsamma Eapen, School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales, Sydney NSW 2052, Australia
Annabel Marsh, Vanessa Spagnol, Rachel Grove, Valsamma Eapen, Academic Unit of Child Psychiatry, South West Sydney Local Health District, Liverpool Hospital, Liverpool NSW 2170, Australia
Rachel Grove, Valsamma Eapen, Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC), St Lucia QLD 4067, Australia
Author contributions: Marsh A, Grove R and Eapen V designed the research; Marsh A and Spagnol V performed the research and analyzed the included studies; Marsh A, Spagnol V and Grove R drafted the manuscript; Eapen V critically analyzed and revised the manuscript; all authors approved the final version of the manuscript for publication.
Conflict-of-interest statement: Authors declare no conflict of interests for this article.
Data sharing statement: No additional data are available.
Open-Access: This article is an open-access article which was selected by an in-house editor and fully peer-reviewed by external reviewers. It is distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:
Correspondence to: Valsamma Eapen, MBBS, PhD, FRCPsych, FRANZCP, Professor, Academic Unit of Child Psychiatry, South West Sydney Local Health District, and Ingham Institute Liverpool Hospital, Elizabeth Street, Liverpool NSW 2170, Australia.
Telephone: +61-2-96164364 Fax: +61-2-96012773
Received: January 17, 2017
Peer-review started: January 18, 2017
First decision: May 22, 2017
Revised: May 29, 2017
Accepted: June 30, 2017
Article in press: July 3, 2017
Published online: September 22, 2017

To identify factors that promote a positive start to school for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).


Web of Science, MEDLINE, Scopus, and PsychINFO searches were conducted to identify literature published after 1991 and relevant to school transition processes in children with ASD. Twenty studies were deemed eligible for inclusion. These studies evaluated a range of factors including school readiness, parent and teacher perspectives on transition practices, characteristics of children with ASD that are associated with successful transition to school and the impact of school based intervention programs.


A review of these studies showed that children with ASD are less school ready emotionally than their peers and those children with ASD appear to have more externalising behaviours and self-regulation difficulties that affect their school engagement and their relationships with their teachers. There was a paucity of research looking at interventions targeting school readiness. However, school-based behavioural interventions appear to improve cognitive, language and daily living skills, but have less impact on socialisation and peer inclusion.


Children with ASD face more challenges transitioning to school, particularly with social interaction. Further development and implementation of specific school-based interventions is needed in order to assist children with autism to maximise their success in starting school.

Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder, School transition, School readiness, School preparation, School based intervention

Core tip: This systematic review examines current school transition research for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), focusing on school readiness, parents and teachers school transitions expectations and experiences, individual factors affecting school transition and school-based interventions. Research in this area is disparate and sparse, but suggests that children with ASD have more difficulty adjusting to school, particularly in relation to active engagement and social interactions with the teachers and peers. Teachers and parents agree comprehensive transition processes are needed throughout the first years. School-based intervention programs in the first years can improve cognitive, language and daily-living but more interventions are needed targeting social interaction.