In the framework of the final conference of the ETTECEC project, hosted by Autism-Europe on December 4th in Brussels, the ETTECEC free online platform for teachers was launched and presented by partners from Slovenia, Spain, and Czech Republic. This two-year Erasmus+ project has developed and implemented an innovative pedagogical approach based on the inclusion paradigm of education, by developing a didactic online course focused on children aged 0-6 (pre-school).
Providing teachers with accurate information and effective practical strategies is important to improve outcomes for children on the autism spectrum and their families. However, limited training opportunities are currently available across Europe in that respect. The ETTECEC project therefore provides online training to preschool teachers so that they can better meet the needs of autistic children in inclusive schools.
The ETTECEC partnership brings together academics and professionals from several education centers and autism organisations across Europe. Those involved come from various backgrounds – both national and cultural – and have a wide set of skills. The project coordinator, Asociación Mi Hijo y Yo from Spain worked closely with all the other partners: Svetovalnica za avtizem and the Educational Research Institute (Pedagoški inštitut) from Slovenia, the Fakultní mateřská škola Sluníčko pod střechou při Pedf UK (Mateřská škola) and Schola Empirica from the Czech Republic, and Autism-Europe.
The ETTECEC online training
ETTECEC has developed and implemented an innovative pedagogical approach based on the inclusion paradigm of education. It is addressed to preschool teachers who want to develop their skills to respond to the needs of children on the autism spectrum. The training can also be useful for teachers who work with children above the age of 6. The course includes different modules, all of them based on specific situations that could happen in the classroom:
- Module 1- What is autism?
- Module 2- What to observe?
- Module 3- Strategies to implement as a teacher
The ETTECEC project aims at improving the Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) systems of the partner regions, making them inclusive, and allowing children on the autism spectrum to be better prepared to enter the rest of the education system.
ETTECEC fundamental philosophy could also make it equally relevant to other stages of education where it could be successfully applied (although considering the different needs and characteristics of the learners). The online course includes different modules based on specific situations that can happen in the classroom.
To access the ETTECEC online training, visit the project Moodle platform by clicking here and register for free. Once you have created an account, the course is freely available in English, French, Spanish, Slovenian and Czech.
Impact of the ETTECEC project
Since 2017, over 20 teachers from ten schools in Slovenia, Czech Republic, and Spain have been trained in relation to autism needs and in turn 270 children have directly benefited from inclusive education methods.
In the last months of 2019, hundreds of professionals, relatives, decision-makers, journalists, autism experts and other interested parties attended the four ETTECEC multiplier events held in Ljubljana, Las Palmas, Prague and Brussels, aiming at raising awareness about the importance of education in autism for preschool teachers and sharing the work and expertise of the project partners to a wider audience.
Before each of these events, project partners had meetings 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 ETTECEC training after the project’s completion.
ETTECEC international event in Brussels
On December 4 2019, Autism-Europe, as partner of the project, hosted the half-day conference “On Autism for preschool teachers” at the University KU Leuven in Brussels. It gave participants from different countries the opportunity to learn more about the situation of inclusive education in Europe and to discover the ETTECEC training, its methodology and impact.
Participants from China, the USA, Belgium, France, Luxembourg and other European countries gathered to know more about the results of the work undertaken by professionals from Spain, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Belgium.
The event started with an introduction of the EU and international legal framework regarding inclusive education in Europe given by Autism-Europe’s director Aurélie Baranger, and continued with a general overview and presentation of the ETTECEC online training and how to access and manage the moodle platform by Maja Skrubej Novak, autism specialist from Svetovalnica za avtizem (Slovenia).
Then, Egle Havrdová, Deputy chair of the board at Schola Empirica from Prague (Czech Republic), presented how the research was conducted before developing the training, notably through study visits, pilots and interviews with preschool teachers, parents and other stakeholders carried out in the framework of the project. ETTECEC partners Lucie Milcent, project coordinator at Asociación Mi Hijo y Yo (Spain), Petra Ristić, director and teacher at Mateřská škola (Czech Republic), and Manja Veldin, researcher at the Pedagoški inštitut/Educational Research Institute (Slovenia) described how the online training has been piloted and implemented in their areas, and showed some success stories resulting from the project .
Presentations from project partners were supported with videos aiming at sharing testimonies of different teachers who have already participated in the different ETTECEC training sessions.
At the end of the event, participants had the opportunity to share their impressions about the ETTECEC training and highlighted common needs and challenges, as well as the importance of developing such a training due to the lack of resources and contents.
The day before, 12 ETTECEC partners attended the 4th transnational meeting at the Autism-Europe’s office to exchange the latest updates of the project and prepare the last outputs before it came to an end.
What have professionals said…
Špela, preschool teacher: “I would like to learn more about working with autistic children. I did not complete any courses helping me to work with them, so I need this kind of training”.
Zala, Assistant teacher: “I have not completed any course specifically for dealing with autism, but I am studying inclusive education. We need training on autism. We would also need professionals who are available for providing support when we need it. I need concrete examples from practice”.
Anonymous preschool teacher: “This year I have new children and no one stands out and there are no behavioural issues so far. In case a need occurs, I will gladly use the ETTECEC online course because additional information, knowledge, experiences, and theory always help us improve our work.”
…in Czech Republic
Kateřina Hanušková, preschool teacher: “Inclusion of children with specific educational needs has been a much discussed issue in the pre-school education sector in the Czech Republic. However, good training materials for teachers are still missing. I hope that the ETTECEC project will bring some useful information and guidelines on how to educate autistic children and how to deal with some difficult situations in the classroom”.
Věra Štěchová, school assistant: “I think that a training for pre-school teachers is much needed because behaviour of autistic children is very specific and unusual in many situations. It can be sometimes very difficult to deal with them. That is why it is important to be well prepared. I think that everything that could help integrate these children into “normal” life is valuable: trainings, workshops, meeting with other parents, teachers, sharing experience and specialized books”.
Jožka Takáčová, preschool teacher: “I think that it is vital to have special education when you work with autistic children. An on-line training for pre-school teachers is definitely useful. I hope I could share experience with other professionals and learn new ways and methods of how to work with autistic children.
Petra Soukupová, economist and mother of an autistic child: “I am glad that the question of educating autistic children has been generally more discussed. I am very happy that our pre-school has gotten involved in the project and has been helpful. As a parent I don´t know any online training course, however any education is helpful. It is also very important is to get support in real life, though. Theory and practice often differ”.
María del Sol Díaz Viera, preschool teacher: “I believe that the teaching staff must be informed and trained to attend autistic children in the classroom, we will use the information of ETTECEC to fulfil our request to be guided in the classroom and look for the necessary supports with the Student, both with functional diversity (autism) and neurotypical, so we can create inclusive classrooms”.