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Autism Speaks Brings Autism Awareness to the Forefront at First-Ever World Meeting of Disabilities

GUAYAQUIL, ECUADOR (November 27, 2013) – On November 25th and 26th, Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, participated in the first-ever World Meeting of Disabilities in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Hosted by Secretaria Tecnica (the Technical Secretariat of Disabilities) and overseen by the office of the Ecuadorian Vice President, an event of this kind is unprecedented in the region.

Inspired by the recent estimates of the World Health Organization (WHO) that more than 1 billion people in the world live with some form of disability, the government of Ecuador chose this meeting as an opportunity to discuss policies, programs, projects, innovations and technologies that have been successfully implemented globally to improve the rights of persons with disabilities. Drawing experts from around the world, the meeting focused on identifying concrete actions for implementation in the international community.

Attended by over 6,000 attendees, broadcasted throughout 17 countries, and viewed by more than 17,000 people, Autism Speaks was invited to present on the Abordaje De Los Trastornos Del Espetro Autista section of the program.

“The participation of Autism Speaks in the World Meeting of Disabilities led to an incredible initiative and partnership in which an alliance has been formed between Autism Speaks and the Secretariat,” said Alex Camacho of Secretario Tecnico de Discapacidades. “The subject of autism is a fundamental priority for the government of Ecuador and will have the full support of our resources. We plan to establish a national strategy for which Autism Speaks will be our primary consultant to help families affected by autism across the country.”

In his presentation, Michael Rosanoff, Associate Director for Public Health Research, provided insight on the global public health challenge of autism and Autism Speaks’ various contributions to the global autism movement.  Most prominently, Rosanoff discussed the Global Autism Public Health (GAPH) Initiative, established by Autism Speaks in 2007, which aims to increase awareness and improve the quality and reach of autism services in underserved communities around the world.

“GAPH is an effort to improve our scientific understanding of autism and, more importantly, to improve the lives of families struggling with autism, through global partnerships and translation of the latest research into real-world solutions” he said.  “Ecuador has already demonstrated global leadership in protecting the rights of and providing opportunities to individuals with disabilities, and I am confident that Ecuador can similarly be a global leader on the autism front.  Autism Speaks looks forward to working with the Ecuadorian government and the autism community there.”

Currently GAPH has active partnerships, programs and exploratory activities in more than 50 nations. The coordinated effort has three primary goals. Firstly, GAPH focuses on raising public and professional awareness of autism, to create a more compassionate and accepting society and to improve the recognition of autism. Secondly, the initiative emphasizes support for public health research to measure the prevalence of autism internationally and to create a platform for advocacy and policy reform.  Finally, the third goal is to improve detection and intervention services through training health care professionals as well as through innovative approaches such as training teachers and parents as co-therapists.

Relatively little is known about the prevalence of autism in Latin America. Current estimates say that approximately one percent of the global population is affected by autism, however recent research from around the world suggests it may be significantly higher. Autism Speaks is currently sponsoring a comprehensive study of autism prevalence in Mexico with results due early next year. It is known that in the U.S., Latino children are often diagnosed later than other ethnic groups and may have less access to diagnostic and treatment services. Autism Speaks is committed to overcoming such disparities through their national Early Access to Care Initiative, which seeks to reduce the average age of diagnosis and increase access to high-quality early intervention for all children on the autism spectrum.

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About Autism
Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders – autism spectrum disorders – caused by a combination of genes and environmental influences. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by communication difficulties, social and behavioral challenges, as well as repetitive behaviors. An estimated one in 88 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum – a 78 percent increase in six years that is only partly explained by improved diagnosis.

About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization. It is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Mr. Wright is the former vice chairman of General Electric and chief executive officer of NBC and NBC Universal. Since its inception, Autism Speaks has committed nearly $200 million to research and developing innovative resources for families. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 100 cities across North America. On the global front, Autism Speaks has established partnerships in more than 40 countries on five continents to foster international research, services and awareness. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit