From the 13 to the 15 of September 2019, ETTECEC partner Autism-Europe held the 12th edition of its triannual International Congress in Nice, hosted by Autisme France. ETTECEC project partners Maša Vidmar and Manja Veldin from the Pedagoški Inštitut had the opportunity to an oral presentation about the project during a session devoted to “Strategic planning and coordination of services”.
The presentation, entitled “The impact of an online teacher training on supporting the inclusion of children with autism in ECEC in three EU countries”, was attended by hundreds of autism experts comming from more than 80 different nationalities.
The role of high-quality ECEC (Early Childhood Education and Care) for a wide range of short- and long-term benefits for individuals and society has been extensively supported (see Council Conclusions, 2011/C 175/03). However, children on the autism spectrum are still less represented in ECEC, due to the lack of adapted settings (EC, 2013).
This study is embedded in the EU K2 project ETTECEC: The Early aTTention for the inclusion of children with ASD in ECEC systems. The aim of the study was to develop, implement and evaluate an online training for preschool teachers, which would enhance teacher’s competencies to provide a more inclusive environment for all children, with a special focus on autistic children.
The study took place in three EU countries and included 18 teachers from 5 preschools that have children on the autism spectrum enrolled. Full day observations of real-life situations and interviews with teachers, parents, and autistic children were conducted.
Based on the findings, needed competencies for teachers were identified and an online didactic training (e.g., videos, audios, and written materials) was developed. It consisted of three modules:
- (a) Module 1: Understanding ASD,
- (b) Module 2: What to observe (teacher as a detective),
- (c) Module 3: Strategies (Strategies to implement with children; Self-care strategies for teachers) and was implemented as a self-study course with follow-up supervisions.
To follow up the impact, the teachers completed the impact questionnaire before and after the implementation of the didactic training, regarding their competencies to work with autistic children and to create inclusive environments. First, preliminary findings show that it is possible to design a self-study online training for teachers that can improve teachers’ competencies to work with children with autism and help them create inclusive environments. Based on the questionnaires it can be concluded which of the three modules in the training was the most useful and supported the development of teacher competencies and in what way.
The results of the evaluation will be presented together with implications for practice and research.This training creates an easily accessible (online, free) tool that can be used by preschool teachers across Europe and possibly lead to improving ECEC systems.
Suggestions for improving the training will be presented.