Established in 2015 to develop a locally appropriate Parent Education Programme, the Erasmus+ project ESIPP draws to an end, demonstrating the very positive impact of this initiative on the lives of children on the autism spectrum and their families in south-east Europe.
Research shows that providing accurate information about autism to parents and teaching them to adapt their parenting using good autism practices, helps to improve outcomes for autistic people and their families. However, such support is extremely limited or non-existent in some European countries. To help fill the gap, the ESIPP project was established in 2015. Its purpose is to develop parent education in autism, tailored to the needs of families and autistic people in the FYR of Macedonia, Cyprus and Croatia.
Running until August 2018, the project is funded by the European Commission’s Erasmus + Programme, Key Action 2: Strategic Partnerships in Adult Education. Led by the University of Northampton (UN), the project brings together academics, professionals and parents from eight other partner universities and autism organisations, including Autism-Europe. Those involved come from various backgrounds – both national and cultural – and have a wide set of skills.
Dr David Preece, project coordinator from the UN: “The ESIPP project was developed to make parent education about autism available to families who otherwise could not access such knowledge. This project has shown the benefits of providing accurate information and effective strategies to parents in these countries. They feel more confident about supporting their children, and more able to respond to their needs. And family life has become happier too.”
ESIPP recommendations for policy-makers
Supporting families is of paramount importance and is also an obligation, according to the Preamble and Article 23 of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities – ratified by the European Union and all its Member States.
To mark the Global Day of Parents 2018, June 1, the ESIPP project is releasing recommendations for policy-makers, together with a short video, to call on policy-makers to foster parent education to improve the quality of life of autistic people and their families.
Parent training is an effective way to empower families and people on the autism spectrum as well as to improve their quality of life, outcomes, and inclusion in society.
ESIPP findings highlight the fact that:
- Parent training noticeably improves the quality of life of autistic people and their families and should, therefore, be supported and further developed;
- Autistic people and their families face many structural obstacles – having a significant impact on access to rights as well as their quality of life – that should also be addressed
Impact of the ESIPP project
Since 2016, the ESIPP project has delivered 19 training sessions to 335 parents in 9 different cities in Croatia, the FYR of Macedonia and Cyprus. Moreover, 9 local trainers have been trained in those countries in order to ensure the sustainability of the project after its lifespan.
Throughout 2017 and the beginning of 2018, a total of 450 parents, professionals, academics, students, decision-makers, journalist and other interested parties attended the 4 different ESIPP multiplier events held in Zagreb, Northampton, Skopje and Limassol, aiming at raising awareness about the importance of parent education in autism and sharing the work and expertise of the project partners to a wider audience.
Before each of these events, project partners held roundtable discussions with national, regional and local key stakeholders (such as representatives of the government, the municipality, NGOs, trade unions, universities, institutions for education and/or disabilities etc.), to discuss about the importance of sustaining the legacy of the ESIPP training after the project’s completion.
ESIPP Parent Education Programme
The ESIPP project has the core aim of developing and disseminating a programme of training for parents of children with autism living in south-eastern Europe. The Parent Education Programme (PEP), entitled “Positive approaches to autism”, consists of six modules.
The PEP promotes the use of positive strategies, and is based around the following topics: an introduction to autism spectrum conditions, behaviour, the use of visual structure, sensory issues, communication challenges and the building of social skills. In addition, three non-core modules were added to meet requests for information on issues linked to puberty, sleeping and eating. This was created due to requests from parents on the initial feedback forms from the first round of training.