With the aim of global advocacy, pioneering autism researcher Joaquin Fuentes, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Spain’s Policlínica Gipuzkoa, has published “Autism Spectrum Disorder: Ten Tips to Support Me,” in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Dr. Fuentes wrote the one-page document – with translations in French, Basque and Spanish – as a tool to empower individuals on the autism spectrum and educate those who work with them.
"We see in our nations a radical evolution in the development of services to people with ASD,” he says. “We consider them full citizens, who must receive personalized support in within their communities. We must pay attention to their hopes and dreams when planning for their futures, to empower them and their legal representatives to make decisions, and to favor their pursuit of self-determination, satisfying relationships and full inclusion in their search for quality of life."
Dr. Fuentes enlisted the help of young adults affected by autism to review and improve early drafts of the document. He also consulted the Board of Families of Spain’s Gipuzkoa Autism Society, where Dr. Fuentes serves as a research consultant.
The tips begin:
1. I am not “autistic.” I am first, foremost and always a person, a student, a child; and I have autism. Do not confuse me with my condition. And please do not use the term in a negative or inconsiderate way. I deserve to be respected.
2. I am an individual. Having autism does not make me the same as other people with autism. Make an effort to know me as an individual, to understand my strengths, my weaknesses and me. Ask me – and my friends and family, if I cannot reply – about my dreams.
3. I deserve services. Services for me begin early. Autism is – or it will be when recognized – a public health issue in many countries of the world. There are instruments to screen it. They should be applied in the framework of screening for other developmental disabilities. If you start soon, my life will be different! And remember that about one quarter of my siblings will have autism or other problems. Help them. They are an important part of my life.
Read all ten tips – and Dr. Fuentes introduction – here.