This project aimed to provide adults (18 years old and over) with autism an opportunity to enhance their communication and social skills by participating in online communities, travelling to other countries in Europe (Slovenia, Italy, Great Britain and Estonia) and developing skills to advocate for their rights.
Communicating via Facebook and accross the frontiers
Since the beginning of the project, all participants with autism have created a Facebook account and have started communicating online, under the supervision and with the support of the project partners. A battery of test has also been created by Doctor Johnny Lawson from the Oxford Bridge University in order to measure the benefits of the project for the participants.
First meeting of the participants in Ljubljana
The project partners (Autism-Europe, Estonian Autism Society, Oxford Brookes University and Autism Romania) travelled to Ljubljana with their delegations and were welcomed by the lead partner of the project: Centre for Autism Slovenia.
It gave delegates with autism the opportunity to meet for the first time in real life their counterparts from other countries that they had, for some of them, already met online. During their stay in Ljubljana they were able to get to know each other through various social activities. Various workshops and visits allowed them to learn more about Slovenia and its capital. They also had the opportunity to meet with the President of Autism-Europe for a questions and answers session.
A press conference was organised in order to raise awareness of Autism in Slovenia and inform about the project objectives. On the last day, a high level conference “Inclusion: switch from minus to plus” gathered the project participants as well as various representatives from Slovenian disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) and ministries to discuss the issue of rights and inclusion of people with disabilities and in particular of people with autism. Several speakers from various European Union’s countries: France, Hungary, Czech Republic, United Kingdom, etc, shared their expertise and good practices with the audience.
The 2nd international ACE project conference on autism took place in Sicily
The main topic of the conference was the usability of online social networks for people with autism.
Between October 8 and 11 2010, Catania, Sicily, hosted the IXth Autism Europe International Congress. Autism-Europe is also a partner of the international Autism Connection Europe project and therefore the Congress also encompassed the second international Autism Connection Europe project conference The conference included the presention of the most recent global research on autism and hosted top experts in the field of autism studies. Ami Klin from Yale Child Study Center and Patricia Howlin from St. George’s Hospital Medical School of London also presented their work and engaged in a fruitful debate with the project’s participants.
The Autism Connection Europe project seminar was entitled ‘Using online social networks as a tool for developing social skills of persons with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD)’. The project was presented by Vesna Melanšek, president of Center for autism Slovenia and Janja Kranjc, psychologist in the Center for autism Slovenia and head of the project. Marianne Kuzemtshenko presented a talk regarding the Estonian Autism Society and its role in the project while Liuba Lacoblev introduced the Romanian organisation to the audience. John Lawson, senior lecturer in psychology at Oxford Brooke’s University, presented the current course of research in the Autism Connection Europe project scope. One participant with Asperger from Roumanie also presented the project and the various activities, with an untertaining presentation.
Maddalene Fiordelli form University in Lugano spoke of the topical findings of the research in use on Facebook and its influence on communications skills of people with autism. Participants with autism also shared their opinion on the project. As well as taking part in this session of the conference the participants shared important experiences, engaged with Sicilian culture, visited Mount Etna and engaged in a variety of other social activities.
The conference concluded with an open discussion between the participants and two experts in the field of autism studies; Ami Klin and Patricia Howlin. Ami Klin is a researcher of autism and a Professor of children psychology and psychiatry at Yale Child Study Center. He published five books and many articles from the field of his research and received numerous awards for his work. Patricia Howlin is a researcher at St. George’s Hospital Medical School of London and has presented her work in numerous books studying autism at children.