In the framework of the Erasmus+ Young Mediators for Inclusion (YMI) project, project partners, Inovar Autismo, Autismo Burgos and Diversamente ODV, carried out Roundtable of Experts and Focus Groups to discuss the project and the development of curriculum. The roundtable took place via video conferences due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Most of the children and young people with autism still live on the margins of society. Almost all institutions that work in this area, develop specific activities directed only to children with autism, in segregated groups. Instead of promoting inclusion, this reproduces paths of exclusion, stigmatization, discrimination and early institutionalization of persons with autism. As revealed in the literature review carried out by all the partners of the “Young Mediators for Inclusion” project, there are some good practices, but they urgently need to be increased and improved in order to create more truly inclusive projects.
This spring, project partners, Inovar Autismo, Autismo Burgos and Diversamente ODV, carried out a Roundtable of Experts and two Focus Groups. The objective of these meetings was to obtain transversal and holistic inputs to aid in structuring the curriculum of the courses for the young mediators, technicians and other staff of all community partners.
Inovar Autismo’s Roundtable of Experts was attended by three experts from the human rights and inclusion area, a representative of the National Institute of Rehabilitation and a representative of the National Department of Education. A young man with autism and member of Inovar Autismo’s board, also participated in this activity. Due to COVID-19, the activity was held virtually. Conversations during the activities included addressing the “state of the art” of promoting the inclusion of people with autism in Portugal, the profile and skills a mediator for inclusion should have as well as the relevance of the activity, and the perception of what should change in order to consolidate, give visibility and better monetize the work of “mediators for inclusion”.
As mentioned before, two focus groups were also held: one group with seven young persons with autism and the other with six family members of persons with autism and two representatives of community partners. These two events were extremely enriching and provided valuable clues for structuring the courses curriculum, an activity that will be developed now in the next step of the project.
Autismo Burgos held one experts roundtable and two virtual focus groups with experts, young autistic people and parents of autistic children. During the meetings attendees expressed their concern about the inclusion process of autistic people, the barriers they experience, and the best way to make the work of the “mediators for inclusion” accessible.
The role of the mediators for inclusion was also discussed. It was agreed that mediators should try to make community activities more convenient, be diplomatic, have access to quality training and be accessible to all those in need at one time.
Diversamente ODV organised a round table of experts in the field of autism and inclusion.The roundtable took place via video conference on 27 March, 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis. The experts were present to discuss the YMI project as well as possible ways of extending the inclusion of people on the autism spectrum in difficult situations. Participants shared their experiences and together identified critical factors necessary for the successful social inclusion of autistic people.
The next step of the project will be to meet in Spain for the second transnational meeting to discuss and analyse the conclusions from each activity in order to elaborate the curriculum pilot courses for technicians of the community´s entities and future young mediators for inclusion.