News and events

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.