SALUTE-ZDRAVSTVO: Distance learning and support for parents of children with autism spectrum disorders


The autism activities of the Salute-Zdravstvo Project adapt to the COVID19 emergency. In these weeks, Italian and Slovenian experts are following the online courses organized by Professor Costanza Colombi, in order to provide support to the parents of children with autism spectrum disorders in Gorizia, Nova Gorica and Šempeter-Vrtojba. Colombi, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan, has conducted research on the diagnosis, intervention and socio-cognitive development of autism in the very early stages of life and has published in several international journals. She is a certified trainer for the Early Start Denver Model in the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule - 2 (ADOS-2) and is also the international expert commissioned by the EGTC GO to carry out the training for the ESDM method for the Italian and Slovenian experts of the project, which is funded by the Interreg VA Italy-Slovenia 2014-2020 Program.

At the beginning of 2020, the cross-border mixed team started the joint treatment of Italian and Slovenian children in the new spaces at the Basaglia Park, inaugurated at the end of 2019. While waiting for the coronavirus emergency to end, the experts are taking courses on parent coaching, held by Colombi for the international scientific community. On April the 21st they will also participate at the lectio magistralis of Professor Sally Rogers, the American scientist who developed the ESDM method. Other meetings will follow the next days with dr. Giacomo Vivanti and Dr. Connie Kasari.

The cross-border team of the EGTC GO also attends a bi-weekly discussion with Costanza Colombi to perfect the supporting work for parents. Colombi’s indications, as well as all the material to carry out home activities collected on the online platform, are then adapted to the needs of parents and children of the area of the EGTC GO.

ESDM certification also continues for operators who participated in the training course organized as part of the Salute-Zdravstvo Project and who, after passing an exam, will therefore be enabled to treat children with this method. Experts from AAS No. 2 "Bassa Friulana Isontina" (today ASUGI) and from the Šempeter Hospital (Splošna bolnišnica "Dr.Franca Derganca") took part in the course, which was held in July 2018 and July 2019.

ESDM is an intervention model with proven scientific effects for the treatment of children with autism spectrum disorder in the early years of life. The medical team, which operates in the Basaglia Park within a dedicated space and with adequate equipment for treatments, will operate according to a joint medical protocol for the care of children suffering from autism spectrum disorder. In the model adopted, an early diagnosis and, consequently, an early treatment intervention is fundamental. It is in fact scientifically proven, that the diagnosis and consequent start of an early intervention can significantly improve the prognosis with children suffering from autism spectrum disorder and the quality of life of their families.