Data held by the Ministry of Education show that only 1,560 children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in Romania were enrolled in mainstream or special schools, for the school year 2012-2013.
According to data from DGASPC partners in the project, in 10 Romanian counties (Bacau, Botosani, Braila, Bucharest Sector 4, Neamt, Prahova, Suceava, Tulcea, Vaslui, Vrancea) in 485 children with autism by age children, registered in TSA opened 10 centers within those institutions, 412 children (ie 85% of registered children) are not employed in any form of education. As for the number of people with ASD in Romania, the only existing official data from the Ministry of Health show that by 2012, 7179 people across the country were diagnosed with autism, and of these, only 4,500 had appealed at the local GDSPC assessment services and hold disability certificates.
The actual number of people with autism in our country is to be around 15,000, as estimated by experts, based on international prevalence data.
So reported in any of these data, and considering the high percentage of non-schooling indicated by the DGASPC partners, the number of children with autism spectrum disorder in Romania, enrolled in a program of education for the school year 2012 – 2013 is extremely small.
One reason is the difficulties involved by working with students with autism, given that specialized support services in order to increase their functionality are poorly developed in our country.
Another cause is the poor preparation of the school environment for the acceptance and integration of pupils with autism.
The “Prepared Community, Integrated Child – Support for Social and School Integration of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders” aims to build a model of multidisciplinary interventions in 10 counties, to increase the access to services for social and educational children ASD.
130 professionals – 100 teachers from 10 counties and 30 psychologists and pedagogues of the 10 TSA Centers – will be trained to develop skills in specific methods of working with children with autism and 100 parents of children with ASD will receive information and support in their relation with the school. Experience training will be provided by the State Diagnostic and Counseling Center in Iceland who will also host a study visit aiming at sharing best practices on school integration of children with autism.
The 10 TSA Centers included in the project will be equipped with specific educational materials and the services provided by psychologists and pedagogues to children with autism and their families will be supervised by specialists. Psychologists and psycho-pedagogues of the centers will be people who will mediate family relationship with the school.
In parallel, the parents receive support and information about school integration of children (legislation, measures enrollment in school, mediation of the relationship with teachers, child adjustment techniques at school). A guide adapted from material developed by Autism Speaks’ School Community Guide will be printed in 100 copies and distributed to families.
At least 10 schools in the counties included in the project will be selected to become partners, in order to develop teachers’ skills of working with children with autism. The work experience and collaboration between educational institutions, DGASPC professionals in centers and families will be promoted as a model of good practice, through a national campaign.
The “Prepared Community, Integrated Child – Support for Social and School Integration of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder” started on 1st of April 2015 at the initiative of the Romanian Angel Appeal Foundation, in partnership with the State Diagnostic and Counseling Center (SDCC) in Iceland and the Directorates of Social Services and Child Protection in Bucharest and 9 counties (Bacau, Botosani, Braila, Neamt, Prahova, Suceava, Tulcea, Vaslui, Vrancea) in which a high number of cases of ASD is registered.
The project has an implementation period of 12 months and is funded by the EEA Grants 2009 – 2014, managed by the NGO Fund in Romania. Total project value is EUR 148,794, of which 133,894 euro grant and 14,900 euro co-financing.