European Connections

As World Autism Acceptance Month draws to an end, it can be useful to think about what we might have learned – if anything – from the whole exercise. This year, the media attention paid to WAAD (World Autism Acceptance/Awareness Day) seemed greater than ever, but it can be difficult to measure what difference this might have made to the lives of autistic individuals and their families. Not only this, but the actual nature of what we are increasing awareness of, or asking others to accept, is not always clear, a point explored in this piece in Perspectives magazine, by the TAE Project Manager, Becky Wood.

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Dr Paola Molteni talks about the TAE on WAAD, in Milan, Italy

An important aspect of WAAD which is often lost is that autism is not limited by national boundaries, and that to understand autistic people, we need to think beyond the cultural references of our own countries. In a small, but we hope significant way, we hope that by working across three countries of Greece, Italy and the UK, we can learn from each other in order to improve the practice of teachers in schools, and so further the inclusion of autistic children of primary school age.

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Ryan Bradley

 

Ryan Bradley, who works on the TAE and is leading the development of the project website (which will be the source of teacher resources), expressed the issue in the following way:

‘The project has developed a methodology for collaborative working that is significant in attempting to establish a unified language and understanding of autism and inclusion across three European countries.’

As the project moves forward and the training materials are further developed and refined for Greece and Italy, we know that they can only be enriched by collaboration across borders. While it can be difficult to quantify the impact and achievements of WAAD, we hope that by informing and empowering teachers, autistic school children will have better educational experiences and outcomes.

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Katerina Laskaridou, pictured here with Dr Damian Milton, talks about the TAE during a WAAD event which included many autistic adolescents and their families

World Autism Acceptance Day 2016

World Autism Acceptance Day (WAAD), also known as World Autism Awareness Day, can provide not only a useful mechanism through which to reconsider our priorities in the field of autism education, but motivate us to highlight aspects of our work which we hope are helping to improve the educational opportunities and longer term outcomes for autistic children.

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A primary school classroom in Greece

 

In Italy, members of the TAE team are participating in a two-day event on the 2nd and 3rd of April entitled ‘Autism: Strategies for Well-Being’. Consisting of talks, workshops and culminating in an autism-friendly film-screening, team members will also emphasise the ways in which the TAE project has sharpened the understanding and skills of different practitioners. One of the speakers at the event is ‘Simone Knowing Simon S.’, a well-known autistic advocate, trainer and consultant who is also a specialist advisor to the Italian TAE team. He will talk about how teachers can facilitate the inclusion of autistic children in the classroom.

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Participants at the Italian piloting sessions of the TAE training materials

 

In Greece, some of the TAE team are marking WAAD a little later in the month on 10th April at the Café Myrtillo, the first café in Greece to employ only autistic adults and those with other special educational needs and disabilities. The main speaker at this event will be Dr Damian Milton, who plays an important advisory role on the TAE project. His talk is entitled: ‘Creating autism-friendly societies’ and will be followed by a presentation on the TAE project itself by the Greek team lead, Katerina Laskaridou, leading to an open discussion. The event organisers have made this event open to the public, but have purposefully invited autistic adults and teenagers in order to emphasise the vital nature of their participation and input.

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Poster advertising the event at the café Myrtillo