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SPAIN: Salesian students participate in initiative to assist students with autism spectrum disorders and their teachers

(MissionNewswire) The “Electronics and Autism Spectrum Disorders: building bridges for communication” initiative in Pamplona, Spain is focused on developing strategies to help children who have autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and their teachers overcome the difficulties of interaction within the classroom. The initiative is a collaboration between the Salesians of Pamplona, the Association for Autism of Navarre and the Santa Luisa de Marillac Institute of Barañain which works with students with autism.

As part of the initiative, a group of Salesian students are working to address difficulties that children with ASD encounter in communication and interaction. At the beginning of the last school year, students in the first year of automation and robotics at the Salesian university in Pamplona were asked to investigate how electronics, automation and robotics could help reduce the barriers that people with ASD face.

Both the students and the teachers took part in training on autism spectrum disorders, went on a visit to see how the Association for Autism of Navarre works with these children and engaged in the creation of prototypes of electronics that can help in the classroom. The prototypes created include a portable multisensory “room”, an interactive machine for making soap bubbles, an electronic agenda, a blackboard to set up and track habits, a device for managing shifts, a visual timer and a noise meter for the classrooms.

“It was intense work,” said one of the students. “It is motivating to help others but at times we were overwhelmed by the difficulties presented during the development of the project. We have invested many, many hours but the result has repaid our efforts.”

“We do not want the work we have done to be left alone, set aside among done projects,” added the student. “We want anyone who wishes to and is interested to have the documentation we produced, replicate it and maybe even improve our devices. This is why we have created a web page where you can download everything you need.”

The Santa Luisa de Marillac Institute has expressed its willingness to welcome Salesian students into its classrooms. A teacher at the institute said, “It was a great experience to share our needs with them and see how they welcomed them with interest and looks of complicity that seemed to say to us ‘we can do it!’”

Hard hit by the current economic troubles in Europe, Spain, although slowly improving economically, has the third highest rate of income inequality of the countries of the European Union. The richest 1 percent of the Spanish population accounts for a quarter of the national wealth, according to the World Bank. It also notes that 10.2 million people in Spain live below the poverty line, equivalent to a poverty rate of 22.3 percent.

Close to 37 percent of young Spanish workers under the age of 25 are unemployed and a growing number of them can’t afford to buy enough food to live. Poor youth with few employable skills struggle the most to find and retain stable employment. Women in Spain face inequality in the workforce. They earn up to 14 percent less than men and represent only 34.5 percent of those listed as the highest earners in Spain.

Salesian missionaries have been working for many years to provide educational and workforce development opportunities for poor youth and women in Spain through residential and technical and vocational training programs.



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ANS – Spain – Electronics and Autism: building bridges for communication

World Bank – Spain