Established in 2016 to develop a pilot training for professionals working with persons on the autism spectrum (independently of their area of knowledge), the Erasmus+ project IPA+ (Inclusion of People with Autism in Europe. Towards a specialised training model for professionals) gathered partners from Spain, Serbia and Portugal, as well as Autism-Europe.
On November 8, the project held its final conference in Brussels to present the curriculum of the training, as well as toolkit and overall results to an international audience, hosted by Autism-Europe.
Taking into account the diversity of the profiles of autistic people, as well as the current approaches and intervention models in autism that are restructuring support services and the role of professionals, the IPA+ project proposes a new educational strategy to qualify professionals to support autistic people in different contexts and spheres of life.
The project has brought together academics, multidisciplinary professionals, parents and self-advocates from various autism organisations from Spain (project coordinator Polibienestar from the University of Valencia and Asociación de Padres de Personas con Autismo- Autismo Burgos), Portugal (the Portuguese Federation of Autism) and Serbia (the Serbian Society of Autism). Those involved come from various backgrounds and have a wide set of skills.
Project partners have created and trialed a comprehensive level training for professionals who need to acquire the foundational knowledge to work with autistic people and an expert level for those who want to gain specialist knowledge and skills. The training has a lifelong perspective, following an evidence-based approach. The final IPA+ curriculum and toolkit will be freely available on the project website in a few weeks in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Serbian.
The training has been developped based on the findings of a literature review, as well as interviews with 48 multidisciplinary and international professionals through focus groups and a Delphi study with 28 participants (including people on the autism spectrum, relatives, trainers and professionals), both of which aimed at providing an accurate views of the needs and expectations regarding the curricular requirements for such a training course.
IPA+ curriculum and toolkit
Participating in the IPA+ modules will help professionals to grow in confidence, assisting them in making and implementing strategies to meet the needs of the autistic people they work with. Self-help strategies will also help them ease stress associated with their professional activity.
The content of each module presents the latest examples of best practices as recognised by autism practitioners and experts in the field. It is hoped that participating in the modules will help professional to grow in confidence.
The content of the modules promotes the use of positive strategies, and is based around the following topics:
- How to recognise autism;
- Science-based or evidence-based contents;
- How to support autistic people and their families;
- What repetitive behaviors mean and how to work with autistic people;
- How to design and implement individualised plans;
- How to interact with families and involve them in the care or intervention;
- How to supervise and evaluate autistic people;
- How to collaborate and communicate with other professionals;
- How to intervene with people on the autism spectrum;
- Promotion of quality of life: independence, social aspects, etc.;
- Self-care (or well-being) of professionals.
Impact of the IPA+ project
Since 2016, the IPA+ project has delivered 6 face-to-face training sessions to around 100 professionals in Spain, Portugal and Serbia.
Throughout the end of 2018, more than 250 professionals, relatives, decision-makers, journalist and other interested parties attended the 4 different IPA+ multiplier events held in Lisbon, Belgrade, Burgos and Brussels, aiming at raising awareness about the importance of education in autism for professionals and sharing the work and expertise of the project partners to a wider audience.
Before each of these events, project partners held discussions with national, regional and local key stakeholders (such as representatives of the government, the municipality, NGOs, universities, institutions for education and/or disabilities etc.), to discuss about the importance of sustaining the legacy of the IPA+ training after the project’s completion.
IPA+ international event in Brussels
On November 8 2018, Autism-Europe, as partner of the project, hosted the half-day conference “Autism -Training professionals to foster inclusion” in the Brussels 44 Centre, giving professionals from different countries the opportunity to learn more about available training on autism online, independently of their area of knowledge.
Participants from the USA, UK, Ireland, France, Belgium and other European countries gathered to know more about the results of the work undertaken by professionals from Spain, Serbia, Portugal and Belgium, as well as the expert guest trainer from the UK Linda Woodcock, director at AT Autism. This organization, which is an associated member of Autism-Europe, offers training and consultancy in all aspects of autism and related neurodevelopmental conditions to support individuals, families, professionals and organisations in the UK and internationally.
Presentations from project partners from Spain, Portugal and Serbia were supported with videos aiming at sharing testimonies of different professionals who have already participated in the different IPA+ training sessions.
What have professionals said…
“In addition to the excellent interaction provided by trainers, it was important the diversity of the content addressed, the relevance of the support material provided and the incentive to search for the best evidence. The interaction with all trainees was also very positive due to the encouraged interdisciplinary discussions.”
“I have applied several times the knowledge acquired in the sessions that I give daily to my users. It was a very good complement to the knowledge that I had already acquired in this area.”
“The contents of the modules and additional activities represent very useful information for further work. In general terms, each subsequent module is updated in relation to the previous one and, therefore, the contents presented during the whole training are rounded up into a meaningful and practically applicable entity.” (Jelena Markovic)
“In this training, I mostly liked the variety of topics that were processed, from the very person with autism, through the parents to the experts who often remain forgotten. As one of the results, I will improve my relationship with families, knowing which are all areas in which they need support.” (Tamara Vukotic)
“The IPA+ training has helped me a lot to strengthen concepts, to have clearest ideas and, above all, to know more about the Asperger’s syndrome thanks to all the examples that were given. Furthermore, the testimonies of the families are helpful to empathize with the autistic person and has deepened my interest in knowing more about what life is like for these people” (Ascensión Contreras)
“The course is a tool that let you see beyond the things you are used to see in your daily work and in your working area. The training has provided me with new knowledge and updates that are important and useful for my current job and give me the opportunity to keep improving. This is way I think this course is great and I encourage other professionals to do it. I am very happy to have done this.” (Juanjo Cabieces)