Adaptation of educational contents to the special needs of a vulnerable segment

The object of the case study is a particular educational program run by an NGO. The Romanian National Association for Children and Adults Suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorder (RO: Asociatia Nationala pentru Copii si Adulti cu AUTISM din Romania – ACNAAR) is one of the oldest and most visible associations in Romania that promotes the rights, interests and needs of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), being established in 1991, two years after the fall of communism. The association is pursuing consulting, individual development and family support interventions, education and integration programs to promote with dignity the rights of persons with autism. A privileged direction of action consists in training recovery teachers for persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders. To this end, ANCAAR organizes the Recovery Teacher Training Program, a profession recognized by the Classification of Occupations in Romania System, (COR 235 205) and authorized by the National Qualifications Authority (ANC). Although the profession is broadly defined, covering any form of assistance in therapy, intervention or just personal assistance for certain categories of disabled persons, the training program addresses the specific needs of persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The program has an applied and interdisciplinary character, bringing together, as trainers, psychopedagogists and educational counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists. The program curricula includes 60 training hours, divided into 20 hours of theoretical training and 40 hours of practice, with the following modules:

  • Introduction into the Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Diagnosis in ASD
  • Evaluation of ASD individual
  • Establishing a personalized intervention plan
  • Case management
  • Pre-therapy
  • Behavioral theory
  • Management of undesirable behaviors
  • Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA)
  • Alternative communication system- PECS
  • TEACCH approach
  • Give me 5 method
  • Play therapy
  • Coaching for individualized-study case
  • Speech and language intervention
  • I am Special method
  • Denver method
  • Community integration
  • Control of sexual manifestations of the person with ASD
  • Occupational therapy
  • Support group. Its role for caregivers of persons with ASD.

The case stands out through the particular issue that it addresses and the flexibility through which it can address it effectively. According to some NGO’s estimates, around 8.000 children in Romania are suffering from ASD and are in the situation of requiring specialized, personal care. And its not only the personal working in education (either mainstream or special schools) that require special training as Recovery teacher, but also members of the families. The occupational standard of Recovery Teacher ensures any form of assistance in therapy, intervention or just personal assistance for certain categories of disabled persons. Adapting it to the specifics of ASD and providing specialized programs is a way of addressing this significant issue.

With a frequency of approximately 5 courses per year, in the last five years ANCAAR instructed more than 500 persons in the profession of Recovery Teacher, with a special focus on ASD. The structure and the modular organisation of the course allows for flexibility in scheduling it and also for the possibility to be organized in regional centers. The possibility to run the program in different cities means a broader reach in addressing this need. By promoting the course and its outcomes, ANCAAR provided not only qualified personnel, but also proved to the families of children with ASD that there is a network of specialized support for their situation.

The program was developed with substantial involvement of a wide range of stakeholders (Ministry of Health, Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Department of Psychology of University Spiru Haret, professional associations and therapeutic associations of carers, the National Qualifications Authority) and was based on the department’s research and teaching tradition. The flexible and autonomous implementation of the training programs in response to the specific needs for skills development is symptomatic for how the confidence of the professional higher education institutions can be increased.


More Information

Impact

What was the challenge intended to be addressed? Why? What did work well? What did not work well? What have been the main achievements? How did you evaluate its success? What has been the change brought by this good practice?

With a frequency of approximately 5 courses per year, in the last five years more than 500 persons in the profession of Recovery Teacher, with a special focus on ASD, have been instructed. According to some Romanian NGO's estimates, aprox. 8.000 children in Romania are suffering from ASD and are in the situation of requiring specialized, personal care. The possibility to organize the course in different cities extends the opportunities of ANCAAR in addressing this need. Moreover, by promoting the course and its outcomes, ANCAAR provided not only qualified personnel, but also proved to the families of children with ASD that there is a network of specialized support for their situation - an important factor in the broader exigency of avoiding isolation and fear of stigmatization for such individuals and their families.

Success Factors

What are the enabling conditions (e.g. institutional, economic, social/cultural, regulatory) that needed to be in place or played a facilitating role for the good practice to be successful?

The significant number of actors interested in the situation of ASD societal consequences (NGO's professional organisations, state actors), as well as the importance of the topic in the international agenda meant that the adoption of the regulatory framework required (legal framework, recognition by COR, authorization by ANC) has found steady support.
The structure and the modular organisation of the course allows for flexibility in scheduling it and also for the possibility to be organised in regional centers.

Constraints

What are the challenges, barriers or limiting factors encountered? How have they been addressed?

Adaptation to the requirements of the prospective students is one of the main constraints, but it is overcome by using the regional infrastructure of University Spiru Haret for organizing courses outside Bucharest.
There is a variety of actors providing short-term courses for this qualification, and this makes the market quite competitive, but the focus on ASD gives prominence to the course and a rather unique positioning.

Feasibility & Sustainability

What are the elements that need to be put into place for the good practice to be sustainable (institutionally, socially, economically, etc.)? If applicable, indicate the total costs incurred for the implementation of the practice. What are the benefits compared to total costs?

The organization is not willing to disclose financial data for this program, but the program is one of the most important and most visible activities of ANCAAR. Due to the fact that the mere organization of these courses helps in raising awareness regarding ASD's and has the potential to articulate a support network for families with children suffering from ASD, the benefits are quite important both at a societal level and in relation to the NGO's mission.

Replicability & Upscaling

What are the possibilities of extending the good practice more widely? What are the conditions that need to be in place for the good practice to be successfully replicated in a similar context? What are the steps that should be taken/respected to ensure that the good practice is replicated / up-scaled, but adapted to the new context?

Upscaling the program might require better regional networks: those in need to attend such programs might not have time and resources to attend the course in one of the cities where the NGO can provide it. Any other relevant actors can provide similar courses, given that they can assemble the required combination of specializations, flexibility and experience in working in ASD therapy, recovery or counseling.

Lessons learned

What would have facilitated an earlier and/or bigger impact? What are the key features that should be kept in mind if this would have to be implemented again? What would you do differently if you could go back in time? What could have been done better?

The program was developed with substantial involvement of a wide range of stakeholders (Ministry of Health, Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Department of Psychology, University Spiru Haret, professional associations and therapeutic associations of carers, the National Qualifications Authority) and was based on the Faculty's research and teaching tradition. Currently the project is implemented through a network of quasi-national coverage, so that recovery teachers from different geographical areas can benefit from this training courses. The autonomous implementation of the training programs in response to the specific needs for skills development increases confidence of the professional higher education institutions. The multilevel involvement of stakehoders, and coordination with established structures of special needs education ensures an adequate and comprehensive agenda for the upgrading of the training of teachers who work with children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Context

Please provide some information about the context and initial situation that can help in fully understanding the action (e.g. information about the national system, applying regulations, etc.)

According to some NGO's estimates, aprox. 8.000 children in Romania are suffering from ASD and are in the situation of requiring specialized, personal care. And its not only the personal working in education (either mainstream or special schools) that require special training as Recovery teacher, but also members of the families. The occupational standard of Recovery Teacher ensures any form of assistance in therapy, intervention or just personal assistance for certain categories of disabled persons. Adapting it to the specifics of ASD and providing specialized programs is a way of addressing this significant issue.