News and events
On this page you will find all news and updates related to the IVRAP project. Simply click on the titles below to be taken directly to a news item or scroll down this page to view all news content.
IVRAP partners support the second stage of the “I can LEARN. I can WORK.” campaign
On World Autism Awareness Day (April 2), partners of the IVRAP project participated in the second stage of Autism-Europe’s awareness raising campaign, “I can learn. I can work.”. The campaign aims to inform and raise awareness on access to education and employment for people on the autism spectrum, even during the pandemic and its containment measures.
IVRAP partners shared pictures of themselves performing the campaign “holding a tool” gesture as a way of showing the diversity of ability that society can nurture to be more inclusive. In line with the objectives of the IVRAP project, the campaign recognizes the importance of providing training on autism to teachers and supporting autistic people in their education whether that be in person, or virtually.
It is estimated that 5 million people are on the autism spectrum in the European Union. Most autistic people experience widespread discrimination in many areas of life including in employment and education. The campaign aims to promote access to inclusive education and employment opportunities for people on the autism spectrum through the EU. During the second stage of the campaign in 2021, specific COVID-19 related topics including distance education, reasonable accommodation, mental health and pandemic related challenges are being addressed too.
The release of the European Disability Strategy for 2021-2030 and the Action Plan for the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, as well as the announcement of the Child Guarantee mark the first months of 2021. These developments to support the rights of people with disabilities in the European Union will set the pace for our campaign actions, as access to education and employment for autistic people have a strong presence within these instruments.
Autism-Europe called on people to join the campaign and to help highlight the diversity of ability that society can nurture to be more inclusive. Even though World Autism Awareness Day has passed, you can still support the campaign!
How can I support?
People willing to support the campaign can post pictures of themselves on social media using the hashtag #AutismDay2021. They can either hold a tool that represents one of their skills (it can be linked either with their ability to learn, or their ability to work on a specific field) or hold the campaign visual.
AE has also released a campaign toolkit (and a special annex for 2021) that explains the objectives of the campaign and includes communication materials and strategies, as well as in Easy-To-Read format (also for the 2021 annex).
In late March 2021, AE hosted a webinar on the theme “I can LEARN. I can WORK.” The European Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli and Members of the European Parliament Katrin Langensiepen and Chiara Gemma provided insight into the rights and needs of people with disabilities across Europe in terms of education and employment. Autistic people and their families, autism organisations, professionals, employers, EU policy-makers and the general population took also part of this collaborative online event.
The webinar is available to watch on demand anytime. Click here for more information on the event.
IVRAP partners held their second transnational meeting of the project online
On November 18 2020, more than 10 IVRAP partners from Spain, the UK, Turkey and Belgium met on a transnational meeting to exchange the latest updates about the project and share professional expertise and ideas. The meeting was due to take place in Valencia, Spain but due to the COVID-19 outbreak, partners decided to host the meeting virtually.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has had a big impact on the project delaying its implementation by about 6 months, partners from the University of Valencia presented the first prototype of the IVRAP Immersive Virtual Reality (IVR) educational tool, currently under review. Partners from the Adapta Foundation and the University of the West of England presented the IVRAP Massive Open Online Course on Virtual Reality and Autism, that will be finalized in the coming months.
At the meeting, partners discussed the next steps of the project, including conducting research, testing the usability of the IVR software and toolkit, implementing the pilot courses and aspects regarding the dissemination of the project.
The project partnership will meet again in spring 2021, most likely online. The project foresees four transnational meetings and three national events in Spain, the UK and Turkey over its two-years lifespan.
Project partners work with schools to develop and test first prototype of IVR tool
IVRAP project partners are in the process of developing an initial prototype of an immersive virtual reality (IVR) tool which will be tested with students from four participating schools in Spain, Turkey and the UK.
The IVR tool is designed to facilitate independent learning for students on autism spectrum who also present intellectual disabilities. Each participating school has expressed their needs in terms of educational activities for autistic students which could be improved if implemented within a VR setting. The technological partner of the project, IRTIC at the University of Valencia, is taking charge of the software development which will be tested with participating students.
In collaboration with teachers and staff at Koynos (Valencia) and Trébol (Ávila) in Spain, with Sobe Centre (Konya) in Turkey and Cambian School in the UK, project partners will test the usability of the tool with a group of students on the autism spectrum in both English and Spanish. The aim of the testing is to fine-tune the software for the VR glasses and to ensure usability for teachers and students. Adjustments to the software will reflect the feedback received from teachers and students and overall help teachers use the tool properly so that their students benefit and can progress in their learning.
The tool is focused on creating a VR version of the Individual Working System which is often used with students as part of 'structured teaching’. Developed by TEACCH Division at the University of North Carolina in the 1960s, structured teaching is a well-established framework that can support students on the autism spectrum to stay on task and move between tasks. Virtual reality offers many advantages for implementing this, including high motivation towards technology by students on the spectrum, control of the situation and pace of learning, error-free training, visual approaches and high level of content personalisation. Within virtual reality, objects can behave in different ways to optimise learning.
During the testing phase, students of the participating schools will wear low-cost fully immersive standalone VR glasses with hand tracking to utilize the software. Partners have selected Oculus Quest VR glasses for the testing as they have high immersive quality and are cost effective. The advantage of these devices is that they are wireless, only requiring a smartphone to install the apps. The glasses also include depth sensors to facilitate hand tracking meaning that students will not need to use VR controllers to manipulate objects within the VR setting. Students will be able to use their own hands to move around in the VR setting. Through their glasses they will see virtual hands that move exactly as their real hands move.
In this video, you can see the current prototype of VR (still under development) where someone is creating a personalised activity on a tray that later will be used by a student on a table within a VR Classroom.
Over the next couple of weeks, partners aim to finish developing the software and afterwards the testing phase will begin. Once tested, the VR Toolkit will be fine tuned and made available to anyone who wishes to download it from IVRAP website. The tool will be translated into French and Turkish, making it accessible in four languages.
The project is also currently developing a video-based Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Virtual Reality for Autism which will explain in depth the procedures for using the IVR tool.
Resources for autistic people and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic
IVRAP project partner, Autism-Europe has gathered useful resources and tips from across the world to help autistic people and their families navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
This time of crisis has been and continues to be particularly challenging for autistic people who see a disruption in their routine, and have difficulty facing uncertainty and change, all while their support services are also being impacted. It is essential that autistic people and their families are supported and provided with resources and accessible tools to understand and communicate about the situation and constant changes linked to the COVID-19.
Many people in the autism community are sharing resources and advice to support autistic people at this time. Below are a few resources that may be helpful to those of you in the IVRAP community.
Resources to help cope with stress and uncertainty:
Webinar about maintaining calmness by Autism Spectrum Information Advice & Meeting Point (AsIam)
Guide for people having difficulty to cope with uncertainty by Autistica, UK
Guide to Anxiety in Autism by Sebastian B Gaigg, Autism Research Group, City University of London
Social stories and visual guides:
Covid19 testing visual guide by AsIam
Bank of communication tools for you to download and print, created in response to the COVID crisis by Patient Provider Communications
Other support initiatives, resources and tips from the autism community:
Information page on COVID-19 by National Autistic Society (UK)
Autism & Covid-19: How to Support Autistic People During the Coronavirus Pandemic by James Sinclair, autistic author
Factsheets on behavioural issues, isolation of adults, the creation of planning of the Groupement national des Centres de Ressources Autisme (GNCRA) and many resources to help during the period of confinement for children and adults with autism (in French).
Booklet in French to accompany autistic people out of lockdown by the Autism Resource Centre Val de Loire (France)
COVID-19 resources for autistic people by The Centre for Research in Autism and Education (UK)
Information and strategies in French on wearing masks by AE member Fondation Autisme Luxembourg
Resources in easy-to-read accessible in various languages:
Inclusion-Europe has listed easy-to-read information available across the EU.
More information and resources about COVID-19 (including in easy-to-read):
To access all resources put together by Autism-Europe, you can visit their website here.
IVRAP partners show their commitment to promoting access to education and employment on World Autism Awareness Day
On World Autism Awareness Day (April 2), partners of the IVRAP project joined Autism-Europe’s two-year awareness raising campaign, “I can learn. I can work” to promote access to education and employment for people on the autism spectrum. In line with the objectives of the IVRAP project, the campaign recognizes the importance of training teachers and exploring innovative learning methods for autistic people. IVRAP project partners shared pictures of themselves carrying out the campaign’s gesture to show that everyone in society has certain strengths that can be harnessed to progress in education and to access employment successfully, and the importance of educational staff in supporting this process.
It is estimated that across the European Union less than 10% of people on the autism spectrum are employed, and lack of access to education is partly to blame. Indeed, many autistic learners are excluded of the education system as they experience a lack of understanding of their individual needs and of adapted support. In order to respond to the challenges many autistic people face when accessing education (including to university and vocational training) and employment, AE is conducting a Europe-wide awareness raising campaign from 2020-2021, together with its member associations across all Europe, and beyond.
Autism-Europe called on people to join the campaign and to help highlight the diversity of ability that society can nurture to be more inclusive. To raise awareness about the objectives of the campaign, AE encouraged supporters to carry out the campaign gesture - holding or using a tool which represents their skills. This gesture is a symbol of empowerment and anyone can participate, whether they are autistic or not, to show that no one should be excluded or discriminated against.
The campaign takes place at a critical time, as the EU is currently discussing the future EU Disability Strategy 2020- 2030, for which AE is advocating. The coming years will also see the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights that states that ‘everyone has the right to quality and inclusive education, training and life-long learning in order to maintain and acquire skills that enable them to participate fully in society and manage successfully transitions in the labour market’. It is therefore a key opportunity to make our voice heard and bring the needs of people on the autism spectrum to the forefront.
How can I support the campaign?
· Find a tool that represents one of your skills;
· Make a video/ GIF of yourself holding the tool (and maybe using it);
· OR take a picture of yourself holding the tool (and maybe using it);
· Share it on social media using the #AutismDay2020 hashtag or send it to Autism Europe via email
*Alternatively, you can just take a picture of yourself holding the visual of the campaign.
The official video of the campaign was created by Autism-Europe and aims to highlight that we can all contribute to the inclusion of autistic people. AE has also released a campaign toolkit that explains the objectives of the campaign and includes communication materials and strategies in more than 10 different languages, as well as an Easy-To-Read version.
Dedicated project website for IVRAP goes live
An official website dedicated to the IVRAP project is now available. It will be regularly updated and will be maintained well beyond the lifetime of the project itself. IVRAP project channels include a website, social media, meetings with public bodies, campaigns and the partners’ own professional networks. The official language will be English, but some content will be translated into the languages targeted by the project (Portuguese, Spanish, Greek, and/or Italian).
IVRAP project kicks off in Brussels
On January 9 and 10 2020, a total of 18 professionals working on the IVRAP project met in Brussels for the first time at the project’s kickoff meeting, organized by Autism-Europe.
The multi-sectoral team of nine partners built for this project includes researchers from two participating universities from Spain, and the UK (including project coordinator the University of Valencia); teachers and autistic people and their families from the four schools involved from Spain, the UK, and Turkey; two continuous training institutions from the two regional governments in Spain and Turkey, and the umbrella organisation Autism-Europe. The objective of the project is to use virtual reality as a tool to assist educators in teaching students on the autism spectrum and students with learning difficulties how to 'learn to learn'.
The goal of the kick-off meeting was to share understanding of the purpose of the project as well as to ensure the project’s viability and success. Different issues such as the initiative’s main objectives, the modalities of the programme development, dissemination and coordination aspects were addressed during this two-day meeting. At this initial stage, partners are developing a Immersive Virtual Reality educational tool to be tested and then scientifically validated during a research study with a larger sample of students.
IVRAP partners will meet again on October 2020 in Valencia, Spain. The project foresees four transnational meetings and three national events in Spain, the UK and Turkey over its two-years lifespan.
Launch of IVRAP project (2019-2021)
Running from September 2019, this two-year project will develop, disseminate, and assess an Immersive Virtual Reality educational tool for teaching students on the autism spectrum and students with learning difficulties how to 'learn to learn'. It will incorporate all the necessary elements of an Individual Work System (IWS), together with the powerful supports provided by means of virtual reality. This project is funded by the European Commission’s Erasmus+ Programme.
The Immersive Virtual Reality as a Tool for Autistic Pupils and Teachers project (IVRAP) is based on the combination of one of the most extended models of autism intervention on education (named Individual Work System- IWS-) with the power of Immersive Virtual Reality (IVR) and Hand-Tracking sensors to manipulated virtual environments.
IWS is one of the most extended best practices in autism intervention, and it is part of the TEACCH Programme. IWS allows autistic students to work independently and, more importantly, creates a context where they learn to learn another skills. IWSs have been proved effective by a number of scientific studies (i.e. Hume et al, 2007; Bennett et al, 2011; Hume et al 2012) and IVR has the potential of significantly improving the results of the conventional version of those systems (Herrera et al, in preparation) and to enormously facilitate the transfer of these methods to regions where access to autism knowledge and methodologies is limited.
In the framework of the Spanish funded project FORHSSTEA, a prototype of a Virtual Reality based individual Work System has been developed and successfully tested by some IVRAP partners back in 2017. The objective of the IVRAP project is to further develop this technology and make it available to be used for free by any student on the autism spectrum or with intellectual disabilities.
IVRAP will also conduct a research with a larger sample of students in order to scientifically validate the IVR IWS and produce both a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Virtual Reality and Autism, and Policy Recommendations related to the assessment of an IVR learning toolkit.
A multi-sectoral team of nine partners has been built for the IVRAP project, including researchers from the two participating universities from Spain, and the UK (project coordinator the Universitat de València, and the University of the West of England, Bristol); teachers and autistic people and their families from the four schools involved from Spain, the UK, and Turkey (Adapta Foundation and Koynos Cooperative, Cambian Group, and the Sobe Foundation), and the Spanish autism association Autismo Ávila; two continuous training institutions from the two regional governments in Spain and Turkey (CEFIRE and Konya İl MEM), and the umbrella organisation Autism-Europe.
About the Erasmus+ Programme
Erasmus+ is the EU’s programme to support education, training, youth and sport in Europe. Its budget of €14.7 billion will provide opportunities for over 4 million Europeans to study, train, gain experience, and volunteer abroad.