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Autism Speaks Applauds the State of Qatar for the Creation of Annual United Nations World Autism Awareness Day

An Unprecedented Global Effort to Increase Awareness about Autism Begins April 2, 2008

NEW YORK, NY (November 27, 2007) -- Autism Speaks Co-founders Bob and Suzanne Wright today joined H.E. Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser, Permanent Representative of the State of Qatar to the United Nations, at a press conference announcing that April 2 will be designated World Autism Awareness Day following the adoption of the Qatari resolution on World Autism Awareness Day at the plenary of the Third Committee of the General Assembly.

 

View highlights from the

press conference at the United Nations
YouTube Video ~ 1 minute

 

The 192 representatives of the U.N.'s Third Committee –that handles social, humanitarian and cultural issues – adopted the WAAD resolution by consensus, paving the way for the establishment of what will be one of an exclusive group of official disease or disorder-specific United Nations Days.

Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned, Consort of His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Emir of the State of Qatar, supported the campaign for a World Autism Awareness Day through the current 62nd UN General Assembly Session, garnering consensus support from all United Nations Member States. In addition to having April 2 designated as World Autism Awareness Day in perpetuity, the resolution further encourages all Member States to take measures to raise awareness about autism throughout society.

Autism Speaks has witnessed first hand the efforts of Qatar to promote the rights of persons with disabilities. Last April, Mrs. Wright had the opportunity to attend and speak at the Second Annual International Forum in Doha, Qatar, at the Shafallah Center for Children with Special Needs, under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned.

“Qatar shared the concerns of a number of countries about the high rate of autism in children in all regions of the world,” said H.E. Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser. “The Qatari resolution invites all member states to observe the second of April in order to raise public awareness of autism and the importance of early diagnosis, research and intervention.” (click here to read H.E. Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser's remarks).

“All of us who visited Qatar were inspired by Her Highness and her deep commitment to improving the lives of children with autism and other special needs through her remarkable Shafallah Center," said Mrs. Wright. Click here to read Mrs. Wright's remarks (PDF).“Autism is a health crisis that knows no geographic or political boundaries and demands an immediate global response,” added Mr. Wright. "The nation of Qatar is an ideal partner in this ambitious effort to raise awareness about autism and the need for action on every continent and in every nation.” Click here to read Mr. Wright's remarks (PDF).

During the press conference, Jacqueline Aidenbaum-Brandt, the mother of a son with autism, shed light on her personal experiences, including the misconception society had of the brain disorder and the concerns of parents of autistic children. She said people often mistook an autistic child for an unruly or poorly behaved one, blaming the parent instead of the disorder for the child's behavior. Click here to read Aidenbaum-Brandt's remarks (PDF).

Following the press conference, H.E. Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser hosted a reception at the Permanent Mission of the State of Qatar to celebrate the adoption of the resolution in the Third Committee. In attendance were representatives from countries who supported the resolution for a UN World Autism Awareness Day as well as members of the autism community. View photos and video from the reception.

The support for World Autism Awareness Day was evident last June when Mrs. Wright was invited to address a U.N. Department of Public Information/Non-Governmental Organization (DPI/NGO) Section briefing entitled “Autism: Raising Awareness, Changing Attitudes.” The notion of a global awareness day was proposed and a petition of support was signed by dozens of NGO representatives in attendance.

ABOUT AUTISM
Autism is a complex brain disorder that inhibits a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by extreme behavioral challenges. Autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed in one in 150 children in the United States, affecting four times as many boys as girls. The diagnosis of autism has increased tenfold in the last decade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called autism a national public health crisis whose cause and cure remain unknown.

ABOUT AUTISM SPEAKS
Autism Speaks is dedicated to increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders, to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and cure for autism, and to advocating for the needs of affected families. It was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Bob Wright is Vice Chairman, General Electric, and served as chief executive officer of NBC for more than twenty years. Autism Speaks has merged with both the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) and Cure Autism Now (CAN), bringing together the nation's three leading autism advocacy organizations. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.autismspeaks.org.