Specialist training to make sure children who have autism receive the best education possible must be given to all teachers, according to a University-led partnership.
The partnership – ASD-EAST – also state that autism awareness training should be extended to other school staff who come into contact with them, such as bus drivers and cleaners.
Autism is a condition that affects all aspects of a person’s life, including how they learn and their experience in the classroom, affecting their communication skills and often causing them to display unusual or repetitive behaviours and interests.
Given the varying nature of autism and severity of symptoms, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to addressing children with autism’s specific needs as well as their general education requirements.
Many teachers across Europe do not have access to appropriate training and educational provision for children with autism is unequal and inequitable, although there are pockets of good practice.
The recommendations to address this follow a two-year project involving UON, Erasmus+ strategic partnership, Northampton-based charity Target Autism and organisations from Belgium, Croatia, Poland and the Republic of North Macedonia.*
The key recommendations for education policy makers are:
- To ensure appropriate Initial Training, Continuing Professional Development and support for teachers. This should include practical and field based experiences, as well as access to current research and best practice teaching strategies
- Accurate understanding of autism and individualisation of learning and teaching need to be central to the training. Putting the emphasis on individualisation is key to meeting the needs of all learners on the autism spectrum
- To have a holistic approach, and work effectively with families. As well as teachers, all staff coming in contact with the children (bus drivers, canteen staff, cleaners) should be adequately trained to support the social inclusion of people on the autism spectrum.
Dr David Preece, Associate Professor of the Centre for Education and Research at the University, said: “Given that around 1% of the human population have autism – 7.5 million people across Europe alone – it is hugely important those in the education system are fully on board with how to effectively work with and support all those on the autism spectrum.
“We ask that education policy makers at home and across the world read and carefully consider the recommendations we outline to place children with autism on a more level playing field in the classroom.”
Although the coronavirus pandemic meant the recommendations could not be officially launched as planned, the ASD-EAST team held a series of online conferences instead. Attended by more than 1,000 international stakeholders, presentations showcased the group’s research and the recommendations.
The conferences also included round-table discussions with policy and decision makers in Croatia, Poland and the Republic of North Macedonia regarding the ongoing use of the project materials in teacher education in those countries.
The full recommendations can be found here.
More information about ASD-EAST can be found on their website.
*The full list of ASD-EAST partner organisations is:
- University of Northampton
- Target Autism
- The Faculty of Education and Rehabilitation Science of the University of Zagreb and the Centar za Autizam (Croatia)
- The Pedagogical University of Kraków (Poland)
- The Association for improving the Life of People with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Sina Svetulka and the Special School Dr Zaltan Sremec (North Macedonia)
- Autism-Europe (Belgium).