From 8 June – 3 July, four conferences held in the framework of the Autism Spectrum Disorder Empowering and Supporting Teacher (ASD-EAST) project, raised awareness about the importance of empowering specialist educators to support autistic learners and shared the work and expertise of the project partners with a wider stakeholder audience.
Each conference was developed and hosted by a project partner. Participants could access the conferences in English, Croatian, Polish and Macedonian to learn about the project’s teacher education curriculum and training materials. More than 1300 professionals attended the four conferences hosted on the ASD-EAST website through the use of YouTube presentations and supporting documentation.
A well-rounded panel of speakers was curated for each conference. The panels included speakers from autism associations, universities, autism-focused EU projects, NGO’s and the European Parliament – as well as teachers who had attended ASD-EAST training. Two Members of Parliament, MEP Stelios Kympouropoulos and MEP Miriam Dalli, joined the English-language conference as panellists to speak about the rights of people on the autism spectrum as well as the need for increased access to quality education for autistic learners.
The conferences provided an overview of the project and outlined the teacher education curriculum and training materials developed by ASD-EAST. Additionally, the results of the mapping survey conducted by ASD-EAST partners at the beginning of the project were showcased and the evaluation findings were discussed.
The findings of the project prompted the creation of a set of policy recommendations to assist EU member states in developing effective specialist teacher training to respond to the support needs of autistic learners across Europe. These recommendations were presented at the conferences and the ‘ASD-EAST Recommendations for Policy-makers’ document and video were shared with participants. Delegates attending the Croatian, North Macedonian and Polish conferences were also guided to appropriate and helpful resources in the countries’ languages to support ongoing practice, and were invited to become local ‘autism ambassadors’ to help sustain good autism practice within these countries.