From the 17 to the 21 February 2017, 20 parents of children with autism had the opportunity to attend the third training sessions delivered in the Centar za Autizam (Zagreb, Croatia) 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 five-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 Angela Capper and Ron Fortuna, from Target Autism, traveled from the UK to successfully deliver these sessions together with Croatian partners from the Centar za Autizam (Sanja Aguilar Muñoz, Ivana Sladić Kljajić, Ana Ružić, Ivanka Pejić and Ana Radović) and the Faculty of Education and Rehabilitation Sciences of the University of Zagreb (Jasmina Frey Škrinjar, Jasmina Stošić and Matea Begić).
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.
This time, modules on communication and social skills were delivered as workshops. Parents were split up into two groups, depending on their child’s abilities. These sessions were very well attended and, during the breaks, parents had the opportunity to talk and share their experiences with other parents and ESIPP partners.
The role of shadow trainers
During this third training sessions, Croatian “shadow trainers” were observed by official ESIPP trainers as they delivered portions of the trainings independently. Croatians had the opportunity to observe the PEP’s core training modules being delivered in their original English language form by trainers from Target Autism.
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 Croatia who is overseeing the future training of new trainers, and monitoring the quality of training that is conducted within their own country.