04 SES 05.5 PS, General Poster Session
General Poster Session
The importance of early detection of the autism spectrum disorders (ASD) that can be diagnosed accurately before the age of two (Zwaigenbaum et.al., 2015), followed by an early intervention, is increasingly recognised (Pijl et.al, 2017). Participation in Early Childhood Education and Care systems (ECEC) is a crucial factor for socialising children into formal education, where the most disadvantaged children demonstrate higher cognitive and socio-emotional benefits when participating in high-quality ECEC (compared to other children; EC, 2012). However, children with ASD are less represented in ECEC, due to the lack of adapted settings (EC, 2013). As there is still a considerable variation in the policies and practices in this area across different Members States (EC, 2019), adequate teacher education and training is required to meet the specific needs of children, therefore equipping teachers with the skills, knowledge and attitudes to teaching a diverse classroom is a key factor in bridging the gap between the vision of inclusive education and actual practices (EASNIE, 2014). In an EU K2 project “ETTECEC- The Early aTTention for the inclusion of children with autism spectrum disorders in Early Childhood Education and Care systems”, we offer education and training for pre-school teachers, aiming to reduce disparities and foster inclusion in pre-school classes, through enhancing their competencies. Six partners from four European countries (Spain, Slovenia, Belgium, and the Czech Republic) are aiming at improving the ECEC systems in partners´ pre-schools, by making them more inclusive and non-discriminative, and by preventing segregation of children. This will allow all children to be better prepared to enter the general education system. The current study was the first step of this project that will develop, pilot and evaluate pre-school teacher training materials, designed specifically for working with children on ASD, by developing a more inclusive classroom. We wanted to explore which key challenges the pre-school teachers are dealing with, to prepare a training that addresses their specific needs and is based on the experiences in their classrooms. To detect all the possible problems that could be encountered, data was collected through semi-structured interviews with the pre-school teachers, their students and parents and via observations. Recognized key challenges from three EU countries (both common and country-specific), proceedings of obtaining them and the transformation of the gathered data into a didactic online training will be presented.
Triangulation method was used to acquire reliable qualitative information about the crucial challenge’s teachers are dealing with in classrooms. For that purpose, semi-structured interviews with different stakeholders and organized whole-day observations in the classrooms were carried out. Furthermore, we included ASD experts’ opinions, on what could be missed by these two methods and added these to the final training. Purposeful sampling was used, as the selected preschool teachers had to teach at least one child with ASD in that school year. The teachers, children with ASD taught by them and one of the children´s parents were interviewed on various topics. Teachers answered questions about their classroom situation, examples of dealing with problems arising with children with ASD, strategies used, coping mechanisms, knowledge, cooperation with other stakeholders; while parents talked about the cooperation, the support needed, behaviour of the child; children were asked about their (dis)likes, friends, games, hobbies, etc. Altogether, we interviewed 22 teachers from three EU countries (Slovenia: N= 8, Spain: N= 4, Czech Republic: N= 10), 13 parents (Slovenia: N= 4, Spain: N= 4, Czech Republic: N= 5) and 14 children with ASD (Slovenia: N= 4, Spain: N= 4, Czech Republic: N= 6). Whole-day observations were conducted in seven classrooms (Slovenia: N= 4, Spain: N= 1, Czech Republic: N= 2) with the use of an observation sheet, developed inside the partnership. We put focus on different areas that influence the well-being of all students and activities taking part in pre-schools (physical, temporal and emotional context). Real life situations, obtained through semi-structured interviews with relevant stakeholders, observations in the classrooms, and expert´s opinion, served as a basis for the development of the training content.
Although the countries included in the research have very different educational contexts, some similar needs were identified. Hardly anyone of the interviewed teachers had basic knowledge about ASD and strategies to address the needs of the students with ASD. Furthermore, a lack of synergy between health professionals, families and teachers was recognised. Conclusions from this study led to the definition of the final curriculum of the didactic online training, which includes videos, audios, and written materials. The training consists of three modules (Module 1: Understanding ASD; Module 2: What to observe-teacher as a detective; Module 3: Strategies), divided into several subsections and is aimed at equipping teachers for dealing with the key challenges recognized with the triangulation method. Self-applied implementation will be carried out in this school year, including a pre- and post-evaluation of the addressed competencies. The project will deliver a pilot of the training for 18 pre-school teachers from 5 schools, who will use their newly acquired knowledge in classroom settings. Therefore, 270 children will be involved in inclusive education methods. For a better understanding of the content and possible improvements of the training after the field-trial, supervisions will be provided. The open access training will be of help to pre-school teachers in their working settings, in dealing with difficult situations; it will contribute to their competencies for creating a more inclusive environment and will also indirectly influence the children in their classes. Pre-school teachers will be able to use the training across EU, as it was developed in an international collaboration with taking national context into account and is translated into five languages. The fundamental aim and philosophy of the training are also relevant for other stages of education, where it could be (consideration the diverse needs and features of the learners) successfully applied.
European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education (EASNIE). (2014). Inclusive Education in Europe: Putting theory into practice. International Conference, 18 November 2013. Reflections from researchers. Odense, Denmark: European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education. p. 60 Retrieved from: https://www.european-agency.org/sites/default/files/IC%20Researchers%20paper.pdf EC (The European Commission’s DG for Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion). (2013). Support for children with special educational needs (SEN). Retrieved from: ec.europa.eu/social/BlobServlet?docId=15975&langId=en EC. (2012). ECEC for children from disadvantaged backgrounds: findings from a European literature review and two case studies. Retrieved from: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/education_culture/repository/education/policy/school/doc/ecec-report_en.pdf EC (The European Commission’s DG for Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion). (2019). Access to quality education for children with special educational needs. Retrieved from: https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=738&langId=en&pubId=8169&furtherPubs=yes Pijl, M.K., Buitelaar, J.K, de Korte WP. M., Rommelse, NJ. N., and Oosterling, I.J. (2017). Sustainability of an early detection program for autism spectrum disorder over the course of 8 years. Autism, 1-7. DOI: 10.1177/1362361317717977 Zwaigenbaum, L., Bauman, M. L., Choueiri, R., Kasari, C., Carter, A., Granpeesheh, D., ... Natowicz, M. R. (2015). Early Intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder under 3 years of age: Recommendations for practice and research. Pediatrics, 136, S60-S81. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2014-3667E
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