S. Tatalović Vorkapić 1, L. Žulić2, S. Skočić Mihić 1

1University of Rijeka, Faculty of Teacher Education (CROATIA)
2Kindergarten Rijeka (CROATIA)
The childhood transitions present very challenging periods in children’s lives as it is, and adding to the situation-specific individual characteristic makes it even more challenging. So, even though the contemporary theoretical model Ecological and Dynamic model of transition takes into account all significant determinants and their interactions in understanding childhood transitions, the special educational needs are not considered within the model. Having in mind this, the study case of the home-kindergarten transition of a six-year-old boy with autism spectrum disorder was run. After taking into account all ethical considerations and collecting written informed consents, two main research methods were used in this study: objective observation of the child’s behavior in the kindergarten group, and a structured face-to-face interview with the boy’s mother, his early childhood educator, and the educational rehabilitator. Three-day observation of the child in his kindergarten group during the whole stay of the child was recorded in the protocol that consisted of strengths and difficulties of the child during the transition process in all developmental domains: cognitive, socio-emotional, motoric, and language. The interviews consisted of a different number of questions regarding different roles of participants and they covered all transition aspects. It was determined that the child's environment and interpersonal factors such as the child's relationships with all adults, greatly influence the quality of the transition process. In addition, the fact has been confirmed that major life changes, such as the death of loved ones, a pet, and a change of residence, can affect the child’s transition process and adjustment itself. Research has shown that the outcome of the transition process largely depends on the child's characteristics and abilities but also depends on specific teaching strategies and physical environment. Furthermore, it was shown that the main prerequisite for quality inclusive education limited the number of children in the educational group in which the child with special needs is included and the number of children with disabilities who are currently in the adjustment process. Furthermore, it proved important to determine the time of arrival and the duration of the child's stay in kindergarten. Given that children with autism spectrum disorder especially respect routines and order, it was found that it is desirable to come at the same, agreed time, to prevent frustration in the child. Given that children with autism spectrum disorder are extremely sensitive to volume, it is advisable during the adjustment period that children participate in an inclusive classroom in the early morning or late afternoon, when there are fewer children and when there is less noise. Based on interviews with all research participants, it was determined that the child's adaptation to kindergarten was more successful during the first pedagogical year when there were twice as many children in the group than during the second pedagogical year. Finally, the main contribution of determining results is in providing research possibilities for exploring the quality of early and preschool practice with special needs children during challenging periods such as transition and adjustment periods. Besides, useful guidelines could be drawn from this study regarding the enhanced inclusive early and preschool education.