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The transition to adulthood for neurodivergent young people: a case study

Dr Rebecca Crompton
University of Manchester



Neurodivergent, and particularly autistic, young people have poor outcomes in adulthood compared to their neurotypical peers. They are less likely to hold stable and well-paid employment, to access further education and to be engaged in community and social activities. Research shows that providing support during the transition to adulthood can support in the development of self-determination, career aspirations and enrollment in further education. The SEN Code of practice currently prescribes statutory support to young people with education, health and care plans.

Methods/ participants

A systematic literature review aimed to describe stakeholder views on the transition to adulthood in the UK. Nine papers were identified using the PRISMA framework and assessed for quality and relevance. A framework analysis was conducted to synthesise findings.

Paper 2 is a descriptive case study, describing one setting’s transition support, evaluating facilitators and barriers to providing support and stakeholder views. Interviews with pupils, parents and staff were thematically analysed.

Analysis/ findings

A biopsychosocial ecosystemic model of the transition to adulthood highlighted high levels of anxiety in all stakeholders and high support burden on parents. Professionals are motivated to help but hindered by systemic barriers around resourcing.

The case study found four themes affecting implementation of support:

  • Motivation: staff motivation to help; barriers to pupil motivation to engage
  • Awareness: increased awareness reduces stigma
  • Practical factors: support must be flexible but consistent; barriers to accessing support
  • Relational factors: positive, trusting relationships needed; communication can be a challenge

Conclusion/ implications

Quality transition support is possible within a UK context, but there are multiple barriers to implementation, some of which require addressing at a systemic/policy level. Relationships are vital to successful support.

Contact Dr Rebecca Crompton