So, what is a transnational meeting?

Next week marks the sixth – and final – transnational meeting of the Transform Autism Education project, hosted by the Italian team and based in Milan. But what is a transnational meeting (TM), and what does it involve?

1. More than a meeting

First of all, it is much more than ‘a meeting’, consisting instead of different activities across a number of days.

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February 2015, Birmingham. The first TM: a group exercise where team members share ideas on how to start up the project.

 

2. A time to update on progress

The TMs are often the only time team members from Greece, Italy and the UK have the opportunity to meet in person and to update each other (outside of Skype meetings and emails) on the progress of the project.

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June, 2015, Piraeus, TM2. Dr Karen Guldberg (Principal Investigator) updates the team on the progress of the project

3. An opportunity for partners to learn about each other’s work

The TAE team consists not only of representatives from three different countries, but of different partners within those countries. For example, the UK team includes researchers from the University of Birmingham, as well as members of the Autism Education Trust, the Birmingham Communication and Autism Team (CAT) and Genium. The Greek team involves the Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation and education staff from nearby schools, while the Italian team consists of academics from the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and representatives from the local branch of the Italian Ministry of Education. Therefore the TMs provide an important opportunity for the different partners to meet, share ideas, and learn about each other’s input into the project.

 

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February 2016, Italy, TM3: team members take a break after a meeting

4. A time to promote the project.

Each TM includes a ‘multiplier’ event, or a conference, to which other researchers, students and professionals are invited, in order to learn about the project and the ideas which underpin it.

 

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October 2016, Birmingham, TM4: a multiplier event including an audience of researchers, teachers, autism professionals and parents

 

5. An opportunity for training

Over the course of the different TMs, there have been many different types of training and seminars: from our partners such as the Autism Education Trust, the CAT and Genium, from academic researchers whose work interlinks with the TAE project, as well as more reflective, discussion-based formats with our autistic advisors and other autistic participants, for example.

 

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February 2017, Piraeus, TM5: Etienne and Bev Wenger-Trayner run a workshop on ‘value creation’.

And so much more…

…such as visits to local schools, planning workshops, discussions on publications, evaluation, administrative tasks and how to sustain the project in the future. Look out for posts on social media and elsewhere about TM6, especially on Thursday, 8th June 2017, for the multiplier event.

 

 

 

 

Looking back, thinking ahead

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In October 2016, the Greek, Italian and UK teams gathered in Birmingham for a week of meetings, talks and presentations. Particular thanks go to the Greek team who had several days of strikes by airport staff to contend with, but nearly all made it over for the whole week.

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Dr  Renata Cumino and Dr Roberta Sala give an update on the progress of the TAE project in Italy

An extremely important aspect of the week was to try to extend the participation and involvement of autistic people in the project, in order to try to ensure that the perspectives, views and experiences of autistic individuals are at the heart of what we do. For this reason, the majority of speakers and presenters across the week were autistic: their input was extremely valuable and greatly appreciated by the team members.

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Alex Gibbs, Gillian Loomes, Michael Barton, Felicity Sedgewick and Dr Damian Milton provided an informative & thought-provoking panel

As well as meetings and seminars, we also had a small conference – a multiplier event – where the keynote address was given by Barry Sheerman MP who outlined the important parliamentary initiatives he and other MPs are involved with in order to improve the lives of autistic people. Other speakers were Barney  Angliss, who spoke passionately about exclusionary practices and the culture of performativity, Dr Catriona Stewart enlightened the audience on how autism might be manifested in women and girls and Dr Damian Milton gave an insightful talk on issues such as stress, anxiety and exclusion, and the long term negative effects that this can have. Dr Karen Guldberg, the Principal Investigator for the project, provided information on the TAE and explained how it incorporates the programmes from the Autism Education Trust.

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Presentation by Dr Damian Milton

There were also recordings of music from composer Anya Ustaszewski, including ‘Differences’, in which she explores how some individuals might be marked out – unhelpfully – as ‘different’. In addition, there was a slide show of an art exhibition devised, organised and curated by autistic students Robin Jackson and Vikki Taylor, with the provocative title: ‘If There Was a Pill to Cure Autism, Would You Take It?’ This had been for a student training weekend run earlier in the year by ACER, and the display consisted of brilliant art work from both autistic adults and children.

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Professor Nick Hodge spoke to the TAE team about behaviour and rights

But soon, we will be packing our suitcases again and travelling to Athens for the next transnational week. As well as meetings, visits and training sessions, this trip will involve a workshop run by Etienne and Bev Wenger-Trayner on how to devise ‘value creation stories’, which are part of the ‘value creation framework’ created by Wenger-Trayner and others in 2011. This is a mechanism by which the TAE team members can reflect on how different aspects of the project and their involvement in it have created ‘value’, which in turn will also enable us to evaluate the impact of the project itself. The development of the Value Creation Framework will mark an important development in the progress of the TAE programme as it enters the final third of its course. In addition, our specialist advisor Dr Damian Milton and Project Manager Becky Wood will run a reflective group exercise on autistic participation, in an aim to extend further the ethos and ideas explored in Birmingham in October 2016.

If you want to see more information and pictures about the Multiplier event,  a storify from Twitter can be found here.

A storify about the whole week is here.