In the framework of the final event of ASD-EAST, Autism-Europe co-organised with the University of Northampton an online roundtable with partners involved in the Erasmus+ project TRAIN ASD [Training Educational Personnel on Communication systems and Teaching Approaches for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (2018-2020)]. The roundtable’ objectives were to learn about each initiative, share experience, and maximize the impact of these two Erasmus+ ongoing projects that focus on designing and delivering autistic-specific training for teachers in collaboration with parents and other actors.
Both projects bring together universities, schools, autism professionals and NGOs across Europe, involving a variety of professionals in the autism field, with some bringing their creativity, others their research, years of experience, and specialist knowledge in education, social work, speech therapy, etc.
At the roundtable, participants discussed how they worked out what autistic-specific training teachers needed through mapping exercises. The projects found that in many countries, National Ministries of Education understood the theory of how to improve the schooling of autistic learners through inclusive education, but they found it difficult to put this into practice for their populations. In both projects, these mappings highlighted the fact that educational professionals are faced with a lack of practical and autism-specific training to adequately address the needs of autistic learners. The wealth of information collected allowed partners to better understand what the autistic-specific learning provision needs were in mainstream and special schools, in the respective countries of each project.
The discussion highlighted a strong complementarity between the two initiatives and the fact that their target audience could benefit from mutual learning. It will be possible as the respective training materials of the projects will be made available online to the public. In terms of sustainability, there is a lot of work to be done to build on these 2-year projects. In the partner countries and in the EU generally, implementing and strengthening the educational systems that autistic people rely on will continue. The practical knowledge and networks (such as the autism ambassadors in the case of ASD-EAST) that have been strengthened through these projects will be invaluable to supporting education for autistic learners going forward.
Partners from ASD-EAST and Train ASD projects also discussed possibilities for further synergies and areas of possible future cooperation, including developing training and support for families.