The Influence of a Preventative Intervention (STAP) on Psychological Adjustment in Children with Autistic Traits During the Transition to Secondary School
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One challenge for all children in their educational career is the transition from primary to secondary school. Especially for students with autistic traits, namely peculiarities in social style and pragmatic adaptation to the environment, this time can be marked by problems of psychological adjustment. The Systematic Transition in Education Programme for Autism Spectrum Disorder (STEP-ASD) has been conceptualized to ease the transition to secondary school for students with ASD. This study examined the effectiveness of the STEP-ASD for the Dutch version of the program (STAP), while expanding the scope to children with autistic traits. I investigated the level of psychological adjustment for all students before, shortly after, and one year after the transition as well as the (longterm) facilitatory effect of the STAP. Psychological adjustment was measured with the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire Teacher report (SDQ-TP) in a Dutch sample (N = 54, M age = 12.14 years), using an unblinded, matched participants, controlled design. Contrary to my expectations, emotional and behavioral problem scores were highest during the last months of primary school (M = 13.58) and decreased after the transition (M = 9.26). Additionally, differences in scores after transition between the STAP (M = 9.31) and the control condition (M = 9.21) were non-significant, indicating no facilitatory effect of the STAP intervention. These findings suggest that characteristics of secondary school might even contribute to the psychological adjustment of students. Future studies should investigate the relationship of autistic traits, psychological adjustment, and school characteristics in a larger, more diverse sample.