On November 25 and 26, Autism Speaks participated in the first “World Meeting of Disabilities” in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Ecuador’s Technical Secretariat of Disabilities and its Office of the Vice President hosted the meeting – Latin America’s first international conference on disabilities. It drew experts from around the world to focus on implementing policies, programs, innovations and technologies that can improve rights and quality of life for persons with disabilities. More than 6,000 attendees were joined by a broadcast viewership of more than 17,000 across 17 countries.
“The participation of Autism Speaks led to an incredible initiative and partnership,” said Alex Camacho, of Ecuador’s Technical Secretariat of Disabilities. “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.”
Michael Rosanoff, Autism Speaks associate director for public health research, presented on autism’s global public health challenge and the organization’s contributions to the global autism movement. Most prominently, he discussed the Global Autism Public Health initiative (GAPH).
“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. 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.”
Relatively little is known about autism’s prevalence in Latin America. Autism Speaks is sponsoring a comprehensive study of prevalence in Mexico with results due early next year. 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 its Early Access to Care initiative. This initiative seeks to reduce the average age of diagnosis and increase access to high-quality early intervention for all children on the autism spectrum.
Currently GAPH has active partnerships, programs and exploratory activities in more than 50 nations. The coordinated effort has three primary goals:
* Raising public and professional awareness of autism to improve recognition and create greater acceptance and compassion.
* Supporting public health research that gauges global autism prevalence and advances advocacy and policy reform.
* Improving detection and intervention services through professional training and involvement of parents as co-therapists.