The Autism Europe Initiative conducted an EU-wide Autism and Education Survey in 2019 to promote access to quality inclusive education for autistic people in schools, universities and vocational training. Thanks to INGO ‘Child with a Future’ (Kyiv) and support of Consul Autism Europe in Ukraine Inna Sergiyenko, Ukraine also took part in survey. We are now happy to present the Ukrainian results.
According to Ukrainian survey participants, the greatest support for people with autism exists in pre-school, primary and secondary schools – in fact, half of those surveyed answered these questions affirmatively. At the same time, the situation with universities is radically different. Majority of respondents do not know what is happening in higher education institutions (63.3%) and whether they support adults with autism (yes – 3.7%, no – 33%). Similarly, 70% of those surveyed said they did not know anything about the availability of support in their region for vocational training for adults with autism. This leads to the conclusion that the reforms, while not quite successful, have largely reached autistic children, but have not affected the adult categories of citizens with special needs yet.
In pre-schools, support mostly occurs during breakfast and lunch (15.6%), parental counselling (14.8%) and interaction support during play (13.2%). Secondary schools offer more classroom assistants compared to primary (28.1% and 18.6% respectively), flexible curriculum opportunities (20% and 11.9%), assisted learning and out-of-class support.
Preschool and elementary school staff demonstrate the highest knowledge of autism. Secondary schools score slightly worse, while universities lag far behind. In about the same order, people rated the desire for staff to improve their professional level – 10%, 18%, 6% and 2% respectively. Overall, 38.2% of respondents said that they ‘totally agree’ and ‘agree’ with the statement that staff and teachers have an adequate understanding of autism and special students’ needs, 42.4% are totally and partially disagreed with it.
According to survey results, the lack of specialists, low level of education of the majority of staff and teachers, and lack of accessible infrastructure for training, are the most painful problems of the education system in Ukraine.
Regarding the existence of an individual child development plan, the respondents’ positions were split almost equally (51% yes, 49% no), likewise for the question of parental involvement in the development plan (47.7% and 52.3%). When asked who makes the final decision about the individual plan, 44.4% answered ‘parents’, 37.7% – ‘specialists’, 18% – ‘jointly’.
And finally, the last question of the survey – ‘Do you think the situation with autism in Ukraine is improving or getting worse?’ – only one in five participants said it was ‘getting worse’ and 77.5% said it was ‘improving’.
In recent years, Ukraine made a major step in this direction, but we must continue and intensify efforts to integrate people with special needs into social processes. According to the experts of INGO ‘Child with a Future’, in the next few years the TOP-10 directions of efforts in the interests of people with special needs in Ukraine should be:
- Increased awareness of autism and all developmental disabilities
- Best international practice professionals teaching Ukrainians about the new research and successful methods in the field of autism.
- Encouraging parents, especially men, to be actively involved
- Creating stable and long-lasting motivations for autism professionals at all levels of education and in all sectors of the economy
- Improving legislation to ‘enable and encourage’ people with disabilities to join the workforce
- Creating favourable and transparent conditions in society for financing the needs of all citizens with different developmental needs
- Requiring the state to provide and require reasonable accommodation for people with developmental disabilities
- Creating conditions for active involvement of national and transnational businesses to sponsor and support people with disabilities
- Active involvement of global, international and national institutions to create a supportive and safe environment for people with disabilities
- Improving global coordination and cooperation in this area.
The survey was answered by 145 respondents from 67 settlements, incl. representatives of educational institutions and NGOs – 36%, individuals – 64%. It is a small sample, and while the survey is not scientifically representative, it generally reflects the state of autism in the education system of Ukraine in 2019. It should be reminded that carrying out representative studies on this and many other topics is impossible due to the lack of accurate statistics on autism in Ukraine. The above figures are % of the total number of respondents who answered the questionnaire. Link to the presentation of the survey results is on the CWF website.