Romanian Angel Appeal Foundation, in partnership with the State Diagnostic and Counseling Center of Iceland and the General Direction of Social Assistance and Child Protection in Bucharest – sector 4 and 9 counties (Bacau, Botosani, Braila, Neamt, Prahova, Suceava, Tulcea, Vaslui, Vrancea) carries, as of April this year, a project that prepares both autistic children and teachers in order to work together for successful school integration.
The main component of the project is the training and practice for psychologists who prepare children with autism, and the training for teachers in special and mass schools, who work with children living wih autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) or are open to the school inclusion and integration of children with ASD.
28 psychologists and pedagogues from 10 TSA GDSACP Centres were trained in September in order to develop skills to increase communication and social capabilities of children with autism, key skills in their academic and social integration. The 10 centers will be equipped with TSA specific educational materials.
Psychologists trained will prepare effectively for school integration 100 children with autism and 100 families. Until now, 58 children with autism and 57 parents were enrolled in the project and had begun preparations. Parents receive information support on school integration of children (legislation, attending school mediation and relationship with teachers, child adjustment techniques at school) and a material made after Autism Speaks’ School Community Guide.
In October, 100 teachers from 10 counties will be trained in working with children with autism. The course will be attended by teachers from both mainstream education and special education, especially support teachers. Teacher training is offered by the State Diagnostic and Counseling Center in Iceland, who also hosted a study visit in September.
The need for the implementation of this project came amid very low instruction rates of people with autism, currently in Romania. According to the data of the Ministry of National Education, only 1,560 children with ASD were enrolled in mainstream or special schools, for the school year 2012 – 2013. For the counties included in the project, data from the same period shows that out of 485 children with autism with schoolchildren, registered in the 10 TSA Centre in GDSACP, 412 children (ie 85% of children registered) were not employed in any form of education.
In 2012, 7179 persons were diagnosed with autism in Romania, according to the Ministry of Health. The actual number of people with autism in our country , as the specialists estimate, would be however 15,000, viewing the international prevalence data.
Causes of schooling decreased number of children with autism is both to lean their preparedness to meet the school environment – because Romania has an infrastructure of specialized interventions far below the needs and demands – but in low educational school environment on integrating students with autism.
The Study Public attitudes to autism, conducted in 2011 for the Romanian Angel Appeal, by Gallup and D&D Research, shows that teachers have different reactions for the child with autism, from compassion to rejection. Rejection occurs fear of making mistakes in dealing with this or the anxiety that attention and resources directed towards children with autism could lead to neglect the needs of other children in the class. Teachers recognize, in most cases, they do not feel sufficiently prepared to cope with children with autism. Also, due to lack of information about disease the typical children’s parents fear of a child with autism may drop the class or jeopardize the physical integrity of other children. The same study shows that among the reasons for reluctance on school integration of children with autism include, equally, the lack of an adapted curriculum and inadequate equipping schools.
The “Prepared Community, Integrated Child – Support for Social and School Integration of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders” wants to build a model of multidisciplinary action in 10 counties, to increase access to specialised services but also in school integration for children with autism.
At least 10 schools in the counties included in the project will be selected to be partners and to develop the teachers’ skills of working with children with autism. The experience of collaboration between educational institutions, DGASPC professionals in Centers and families will be promoted as a model of good practice through a national campaign.
The project started on 1 April 2015, it has an implementation period of 12 months and is funded by the EEA Grants 2009-2014, in the NGO Fund in Romania.
Total project value is EUR 148 794, of which 133 894 euro and 14,900 euro grant funding.