NEW YORK, N.Y. (December 12, 2012) – Today the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) unanimously passed a new resolution calling on governments to take urgent action to improve access to long-term healthcare, education, training and intervention programs for persons with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), developmental disorders (DD), and associated disabilities, at local, national and international levels. The resolution was drafted and tabled by the Mission of Bangladesh with the support of Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, and more than 70 co-sponsors.
The new resolution will enable UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to bring ASD, DD, and other disabilities to the attention of all member states and UN organizations in advance of the High Level Meeting of the General Assembly on the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and other internationally agreed development goals for persons with disabilities that will take place in September 2013.
“Over the past five years, armed with the support of the United Nations, so many countries have made meaningful improvements to the services they offer, helping innumerable families and individuals affected by autism,” said Suzanne Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks. “We are grateful to the Mission of Bangladesh, the State of Qatar and the resolution’s co-sponsors for supporting this global call to action that provides concrete steps to bring us closer to finding more effective treatments and a cure for autism.”
During the discussion of the resolution at the UN General Assembly, several of the co-sponsors spoke about advances in government support and service provision for individuals and families affected by ASD in their home countries. The representative from Israel said that their country is currently introducing a law that will provide individuals with ASD lifelong government support. Saudi Arabia spoke of the need to recognize the special talents of those with ASD and of the success of a new organization called The Charitable Society for Autism Families in Saudi Arabia, an effort led by Princess Samira bint Abdullah Al-Farhan. Indonesia highlighted the importance of capacity-building as well as support for not only affected individuals, but also their families.
The new resolution encourages member states to increase research expertise and service delivery through international collaboration, to ensure an inclusive educational system in their home countries, to enhance access to support services, and to continue to raise public and professional awareness of ASD, DD and other disabilities in order to combat stigma and discrimination.
The resolution recognizes the particular severity of the challenges faced by persons with disabilities in the developing world, where lack of knowledge and expertise to recognize symptoms and identify ASD and other disabilities presents a major barrier to improving the health and wellbeing of this population. It notes the absence of effective routine screenings that allow for early detection, in turn limiting access to early intervention and care.
Autism Speaks has been at the forefront of efforts to help countries provide resources and improve the lives of individuals with autism, including Albania, Bangladesh, China, South Africa, and recently Panama, which are participants in Autism Speaks’ Global Autism Public Health (GAPH) initiative. Since 2007, Panama and Albania have opened centers dedicated to providing services to children with autism. The GAPH initiative is an effort that aims to increase awareness, service delivery, and research around the world, with particular focus on early intervention. Autism Speaks has collaborations in more than 40 countries.
The 2007 UN resolution on autism, which was dedicated to increasing global awareness of autism and officially established April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day, has seen great success in drawing the world’s attention to autism. This year, more than 600 cities in 45 countries on 6 continents participated in the 2012 World Autism Awareness Day activities.
The new resolution has already begun to inspire various member states to take action to address autism. In January 2013, the governments of Bangladesh and India, with technical support from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Autism Speaks, will hold the first meeting of the Southeast Asia Autism Network (SAAN) in New Delhi, India. The mission of SAAN is to identify regional challenges and opportunities for partnership on issues related to 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 1 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 over $195 million to research and developing innovative resources for families. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 95 cities across North America. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.autismspeaks.org.