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World Autism Awareness Day: UN calls for greater support for autistic people

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Antonio Guterres

The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, has highlighted the need for greater support for people with autism, particularly at the community-level.

Mr Guterres said this on Friday in his message to mark World Autism Awareness Day.

World Autism Awareness Day is globally marked annually on April 2 to encourage Member States of the UN to take measures to raise awareness about people with autism throughout the world.

The UN chief revealed how the COVID-19 pandemic had worsened inequalities affecting people with the condition.

“On this World Autism Awareness Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to an inclusive, equitable and sustainable world for persons with autism,” he said.

Approximately one in 100 children has autism, which constitutes a diverse group of conditions related to development of the brain, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Although characteristics may be detected in early childhood, autism is often not diagnosed until much later.

The abilities and needs of autistic people vary and can evolve over time, WHO said. While some can live independently, others have severe disabilities and require life-long care and support.

The secretary-general underscored how the UN supports the rights of persons with autism to fully participate in society, in line with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which pledges to “leave no one behind”.

While the 2030 Agenda represents a commitment to reducing inequality through social, economic and political inclusion for all, including persons with disabilities, Mr Guterres said many persons with autism still live in isolation, discriminated against and disconnected from their communities, in institutions – or even in their own homes.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many of these inequalities through the loss or reduction of services at school, in homes and in the community.

“We need to ensure that the rights, perspectives and well-being of persons with disabilities, including those with autism, are an integral part of building forward better from the pandemic,” he said.

The secretary-general said the solution lies in more community-based support systems for people with autism.

“We must also establish inclusive education systems and training programmes that enable students with autism to access the educational path of their choice.

“And we must make technology solutions available for persons with autism to live independently in their communities,” he added.

Mr Guterres stated that all of these efforts must be centred around active consultation with persons with disabilities and their representative organisations.

(NAN)

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