1st International a-STEP Training School: Building Bridges with Participatory Research

July 3-4, 2023 – Elbasan, Albania

Aims & Scope

a-STEP is a COST action that aims to build an interdisciplinary, intersectoral, pan EU and beyond, network which will work to enhance social inclusion and empowerment of individuals with ASD and/or ID and their families. a-STEP Training School is one of the steps that this action has taken to achieve this goal. The theme of this year is “Building Bridges with Participatory Research” Building Bridges with Participatory Research will focus on design-based research methodology and work with individuals with special needs, specifically with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and Intellectual Disability (ID). Participants will develop knowledge, skills, and competencies about participatory research methodology; thus, while the participants gain knowledge, skills, and competencies in designing a study, they will also have the opportunity to make connections on how to use this knowledge and skills in the social inclusion of people with ASD and ID through Assistive Technology studies. In addition, they will be more aware of ethical issues in participatory research, familiarize themselves with the design-based research, and better understand the importance of participatory research for European Union and its institutions and programs. They are expected to work in groups in practical hands-on activities led by the speakers to exchange and share ideas. Time is also allocated to discussing individual projects and research, especially about the social inclusion of people with ASD and ID through assistive technologies studies; in these sessions, researchers can share their research ideas, establish new collaborations, and get feedback from experts and peers. We invite Ph.D. students and young researchers to apply by sending their applications as specified below. The application is open to everyone interested in the topic of the Training School and working in the field of assistive technologies for ASD and ID studies. Registration is free and includes participation in all lectures and coffee breaks. Accepted researchers will be supported by a-STEP action.


Prof Charles L. Mifsud

Professor of Literacy Education, Director, Centre for Literacy, University of Malta, Malta

Prof Lynn W. Zimmerman

Professor Emerita of Education, Purdue University, Hammond, IN, USA

Dr Skerdi Zahaj

Researcher/Clinical Psychologist/Psychotherapist. Department of Psychology and Education, Univeristy of Tirana.

Petya Stavreva

Director of the Balkan Chamber, Former Member of the European Parliament, EU Policy Consultant


Monday (July 3rd, 2023)

08:30 Registration
08:50 Welcome & Day Presentation
09:00 Building our network
09:20 Participatory Research and its Importance for the European Union and its Institutions and Programs
10:00 Foundations of PAR Past, Present, Future
10:50 Coffee Break
11:20 Participatory Research Methods and Tools
12:10 Ethical Issues in Participatory Research with Children and Young People
13:00 Lunch
14:00  Participatory Research with young people with special needs and disabilities – Some reflections
14:50 The role of reflection and reflective practice in PAR
15:40 Coffee Break
16:10 Applied group work (Peer Feedback)
17:00 Closing
19:00 Social Event

Tuesday (July 4th, 2023)

09:00 Recap & a-STEP Dissemination Event
09:30 Design-Based Research (DBR) on the Continuum of Participatory Research Methodologies 
10:20 Case Studies: Research projects on Social Robots and children with Intellectual Disabilities & ​​Parent-child joint reading of digital books in bilingual families
11:10 Coffee Break
11:30 Being participatory and inclusive
12:20 Applied group work (Being participatory through interviews, focus groups, play, and photo-based images)
13:10 Lunch
14:40 Analyzing qualitative data
15:30 Applied group work (Advanced peer feedback)
16:20 Coffee Break
16:40 Reflection and Planning for Future Research
17:30 Closing

ımportant dates

Application Deadline (Extended)

May 31st, 2023

Notification of Acceptance

June 2nd, 2023


Candidates should fill out the online form on the registration page, and submit a letter of motivation and CV.  Candidates should also prepare a short abstract of the study that they will present about assistive technologies and ASD and ID studies. A limited number of grants to support travel and accommodation are available. All the applications will be evaluated and ranked by the scientific committee and the top 15 applications will be supported. Successful applicants must sign-up for the e-cost system and accept the invitation letter.
Admission to the school is on competitive grounds and selected participants are expected to attend for the full length of the program, from the morning of Monday, July 3rd till the afternoon of Tuesday 4th, and contribute actively to group work.

Research Discussion Session (for accepted applicants only)

Participants in the Training School must develop a poster about their assistive technologies for ASD and ID studies. The poster must be related to research performed by the participant or to a proposal for developing a future research project. The poster should specifically describe:
  • aim of the research;
  • methodology of the research;
The posters will be exposed to the experts and the participants at the Training School during research discussion sessions, and the participants will be able to withdraw them once their session is finished. The size of the poster must be A0 (841 mm x 1189 mm), and it is the responsibility of each participant to print it and bring it to the beginning of Training School.

organızer & chaır of scıentıfıc commıttee

Dr Merita Hoxha

Aleksander Xhuvani University, Elbasan, Albania

Scıentıfıc commıttee members

Dr Zeynep Şahin Timar

Karadeniz Technical University, Trabzon, Türkiye

Prof Geraldine Leader

University of Galway, Galway, Ireland

Dr Özge Mısırlı

Eskişehir Osmangazi University, Eskişehir, Türkiye


For any information about the a-STEP Training Schools, please contact

a-STEP official website to obtain more information about the whole project