“Children on the autism spectrum, who are already vulnerable to poor psychosocial outcomes, are at much greater risk than their non-autistic peers of being expelled from school” (BREDE et al., 2017). But also, adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) face many problems in finding a job that fits to their special strenghts and abilities (see SCOTT et al., 2018). For these reasons “we need to encourage urgent local action on policies, systems and structures […] to the ideal of inclusion” (PELLICANO et al., 2018) and “to understand the living experiences of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) from a broader perspective, taking into account many areas of an individual’s functioning and environment” (MAHDI et al., 2017).
These introducing quotations from latest publications of worldwide renowned experts in the field of autism underline that there is an absolute need of including people with ASD in daily life and also the European Commission has launched several activities fostering social inclusion like the “Communication of the Commission – A better workplace for all: from equal opportunities towards diversity and inclusion” (EC, 2017).
For all these reasons, the project AuTrain aims at improving the actual situation of people with ASD in Europe by developing and implementing a comprehensive online-platform that can be used for several purposes. First, this “AuTrain Platform” will be used for information and awareness raising in terms of the daily life participation of autistic as the important basis of social inclusion. For this reason, the project team will develop comprehensive material on autism, its forms and characteristics and how to communicate with people with ASD.
Second, the platform will be used for a pan-European exchange of information and opinions of experts in science and practical work in the field of autism.
Third, the platform will contain the curriculum plus all the needed teaching and training material for the additional professional qualification course “autism officer” as one main result of AuTrain.
Talking to a teacher, asking for a passport in a public office or being admitted to hospital are psychological burdens for autistic people because those situations cause stress and it needs skilled personnel to recognize ASD and to support the respective staff in inclusively dealing with people with ASD. “Autism officers” will be employees of institutions in the field of public administration, healthcare and education as the main defined target groups of AuTrain.
As mentioned, the training course will be implemented in a blended learning setting in the AuTrain Platform but separately developed and tested. First, a transnational short-term training will be organised to train the staff that will organise and implement national trainings with staff of institutions from public administration, healthcare and education. A high number of associated partners from several European countries will send staff to these national training courses and “autism officers” will act as multipliers and “contact points” in terms of autism in their organisations.
The additional professional qualification “autism officer” will be accredited by an external body and ISO 17024 certified. So, it will be possible for all course participants to do the optional personnel ISO 17024 certification that is internationally recognized. Furthermore, the international standard of the training´s certification builds the basis for the project´s long-term impact. A qualification board of project partners will disseminate the certification and the course, so that it can easily be provided in all European countries. Free access to the AuTrain platform will ensure that all documents can be used by other organisations for their purposes in future.
For planning, developing and implementing this comprehensive number of results, the project team of AuTrain consists of needed experts in several fields. Universidade do Minho from Braga (PT) and KAROLINSKA INSTITUTET (SE) as world´s leading universities in special education and medical science will use their large measure of knowledge and experience for developing information and teaching and training material that fits to latest scientific standards. VINCO (AT), the EUROPEAN EDUCATION AND LEARNING INSTITUTE (EL) and the social cooperative IL CERCHIO (IT) are all experienced and actively working in the field of dealing with people with ASD and supporting people who deal with autistic people. Finally, FH-JOANNEUM (AT), one of Austria´s leading university of applied sciences, offers courses in social work as well in ICT and he Applied Computer Sciences Department will use its experiences and knowledge in developing online-platforms that ensure a maximum level of usability and didactical quality.
To sum it up, the AuTrain project will establish the needed European framework for improving the situation of people with ASD by using innovative digital learning solutions.
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