Visiting local schools in the host country has formed an important part of the transnational meetings which take place every six months on the Transforming Autism Education (TAE) project. Most of the partners involved with the TAE have direct experience working with autistic children, and so going to different educational environments and talking to staff can provide valuable insights and ideas which feed into the planning of the teacher training materials.
This week, the UK is marking Schools Awareness Week. This consciousness-raising campaign is run by the National Autistic Society and hopes to promote better understanding in mainstream schools of how to support and engage with autistic pupils. This worthy scheme mirrors some of the key ambitions of the TAE project which aims, amongst other things, to foster greater acceptance of autistic children as individuals with their own particular qualities and strengths, as well as needs.
The teacher training materials being developed by the teams in Greece and Italy are based on those provided by our partners, the Autism Education Trust (AET). In the AET National Standards (a resource developed in collaboration with the Autism Centre for Education and Research at the University of Birmingham) for example, autism is conceived of as ‘four areas of difference’, rather than a set of impairments. In the TAE, we hope that by engaging directly with school staff, learning from them and exchanging ideas, we can promote greater understanding and inclusion of autistic children in mainstream schools.