On 24th November, Autism-Europe took part in a conference hosted by the European project AMUSE at the University of Valencia. The event aimed at highlighting good practices from across Europe to foster inclusion and access to education adapted to the individual needs of autistic children.
The event was attended by more than 300 participants, among them many teachers and education professionals.
The conference was held in the framework of the AMUSE project, whose main objective is to foster exchange of knowledge around the system of “Autism Units” within mainstream schools. Whilst this modality of provision has the potential to enhance inclusion, research concluded that there is a lack of robust, empirical evidence concerning practice and outcomes, and that more research is required to establish the effectiveness of this type of schooling.
The government of Valencia, a partner in the project, has recently developed a report about the modalities of schooling for students with autism, including the experimental model of autism units that has been developed in this region over the last twelve years, reaching the same conclusion that more research is required. What evidence there is suggests that students with autism progress much better when autism-specific educational support is provided (Mesibov and Howley, 2003).
AE Director, Aurélie Baranger, was invited to take part in the opening panel of the conference alongside the project leaders and local authorities. She highlighted the importance of advocating for the right to inclusive education of autistic people across Europe.
This right is enshrined in the Resolution of the Council of Europe on the education and social inclusion of children and young people with ASD and in article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, which provides for access to education in the general education system. In order to make this right a reality, and ensure the best conditions and the provision of adequate support for autistic people to thrive, exchanging and promoting practical, innovative and evidence-based solutions at the national and international level is key.
The AMUSE project aims at providing resources and best practices, and conducting research to assess this particular modality of schooling. The project is developing a European-wide data base of mainstream schools with autism units, available clicking here.
It is also conducting research to accurately identify the profile of autistic students who benefit the most from this particular modality of schooling and to identify best practices and provide training. In line with the objectives of AMUSE, the conference provided an opportunity to reflect on various existing models of schooling and present concrete practices for the education and inclusion of autistic students at school. The event highlighted the great added value of pulling together existing resources from across Europe and of mutual learning in the field.