Watch: Taking care of those with invisible disabilities

With the support of Ministry for Education, AX Foundation is redirecting all its efforts to support children on the autism spectrum.

The Ministry of Education and AX Foundation have signed an agreement on a project wich will lead to more knowledge on how to help educators understand how to deal with students who are on autism spectrum.

Minister for Education and Employment Evarist Bartolo said that both the fields of education and work need to be more inclusive. While thanking AX Foundation’s commitment and collaboration, the Minister reiterated that all of us as a society need to work more seriously in this respect.

Miguela Xuereb – Evarist Bartolo

Permanent Secretary Francis Fabri said that the ministry welcomed the collaboration with the AX Foundation. He said that in recent years the importance of full inclusion in our schools meant that training focused on various aspects of inclusion for educators was essential.

“When taking over the AX Foundation earlier on this year I wanted to redirect all its efforts towards a cause that is currently under resourced and underfunded. After months of research and meetings we have decided to support children with hidden disabilities with focus on children that are on the autism spectrum,” Claire Zammit Xuereb, chairperson of AX Foundation commented when taking over the helm of the foundation from her mother who has led the organisation for the past 15 years.

Miguela Xuereb

The Assistant Director of the National School Support Services (NSSS), Josanne Ghirxi, said that through this training, the HOD (Inclusion) / INCOs can give concrete guidance to educators in their respective schools.

While some disabilities demand recognition via a wheelchair, hearing aid, or portable oxygen tank, others are more subtle, but that doesn’t make them any less real, she added.

A child on the autism spectrum would require a different approach in schooling and would react to things in class differently than others. This might cause confusion in class unless the teacher knows how to handle it. If the condition would remain unnoticed no good measures would be applied, and the child would continue to feel that they are misunderstood, and school would remain uninteresting. Teachers in school need to be equipped and trained with the latest knowledge.

Miguela Xuereb

One of the major gaps identified was the challenge faced by professionals working in the field of inclusion and their ability in keeping up with the latest research and strategies used to support children on the autism spectrum. By providing the HoD’s (Inclusion) / INCO’s with current strategies being used to support students on the autism spectrum, the AX Foundation will enable them to demonstrate their successful use in classrooms, upskilling teachers and LSEs in the process.

To address this, AX Foundation is ready to finance a training programme for over 35 teachers. In collaboration with the National School Support Services it has reached out to National Autistic Society (NAS) in the UK,one of the leading institutions in this field, to lead the training sessions here in Malta.

“The training started in October in order to be implemented within this school year.  It’s a beginning of a long road but ultimately we believe it will contribute towards making a significant difference in the lives of persons with hidden disabilities on a national level in the years to come,” Ms Zammit Xuereb said.

More information about the AX Foundation may be found on its website.