On 18 and 19 March 2017, more than 20 parents of children with autism had the opportunity to attend the third training sessions delivered in the Autism Assessment Support Practice-AASP (Limassol, Cyprus) in the framework of the Equity and Social Inclusion through Positive Parenting project (ESIPP), co-funded by the European Union’s Erasmus+ programme.
During this two-day training, ESIPP partners delivered the six modules making up the ESIPP Parent Education Programme (PEP), which aims at developing and disseminating a training programme for parents of children with autism living in South-eastern Europe. Partners Nefi Charalambous-Darden and Angela Winstanley successfully deliver these sessions together with shadow trainers Chrystalla Gerolemo, Ermioni Hadjidimitri, Lefkothea Fedonos, Maria Zarari and Louiza Loizou.
Each module of the PEP is designed to increase parents’ knowledge, building upon the information learned in previous modules and extending it further. The content of the modules promotes the use of positive strategies, and is based around the following topics: an introduction to autism spectrum conditions, behaviour, the use of visual structures, sensory issues, communication challenges and the building of social skills. In addition, three non-core modules were added to meet requests for information on issues linked to puberty, and on sleeping and eating issues. These were added following requests from parents on the initial feedback forms filled in during the first round of training.
Participants demonstrated a genuine engagement and interest throughout the training. Their feedback was very positive despite the difficulties they faced to attend two days in a row. Those parents who did so were quite enthusiastic and expressed the relevance of these training sessions for their child’s progress.
The “Question and Answer” session was very much appreciated by both trainers and parents. It facilitated information and experience exchange among parents, facilitating networking and the creation of a “support group”.
The role of shadow trainers
During this third training sessions, Cypriot “shadow trainers” Gerolemo, Hadjidimitri, Fedonos, Zarari and Loizou were observed by official ESIPP trainers as they delivered sections of the trainings independently. Cypriot participants had the opportunity to observe the PEP’s core training modules being delivered in their original English-language form by trainers from AASP.
Sessions were also videotaped for future reference, should the shadow trainers need clarification at some point in the future about how a certain section of the training was delivered. Trainees also keep a reflective diary where they take note of any relevant information that they may need once the programme is completely in their hands. Thus, there is a lead trainer in Cyprus who is overseeing the future training of new trainers, and monitoring the quality of training that is conducted within their own country.