With broader attention given on promoting the equality and inclusion of all persons with disabilities, including individuals with autism, the world has made progress in tackling the barriers to their equal rights and full inclusion in society.
In an event on the sixth annual World Autism Awareness Day, U.S. Representative to ECOSOC Elizabeth Cousens highlighted that over the last few decades, the world has seen a profound shift in the way that people understand autism and other disabilities.
“Thanks to ground-breaking research of scientists and doctors at institutions around the globe from Dhaka to Dakar, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to the World Health Organization.” – Ms. Cousens
She says the world now knows much more about which children are likely to have ASDs, enabling earlier intervention and more and better tailored services, which is crucial.
With the pioneering work of parent organizations and civil society groups like Autism Speaks, the world has reduced the stigma associated with autism spectrum disorders, laying the groundwork for children and adults living with ASDs to lead independent, productive, and rewarding lives.
In addition, with the increasingly comprehensive national legislation, such as the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act in 2011 in this country, the world is developing essential tools to ensure that all individuals within the autism spectrum can participate fully in society.
“And thanks to the path-breaking Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, we have an international framework for promoting the equality and inclusion of all persons with disabilities, including individuals with autism.” – Ms. Cousens
US welcomes new resolution to address the needs of individuals with autism
According to Ms. Cousens, the US welcomes the opportunity to take stock of progress in implementing the General Assembly’s resolution on ‘Addressing the socioeconomic needs of individuals, families and societies affected by autism spectrum disorders, developmental disorders and associated disabilities.’
She says the General Assembly resolution that is the focus of today’s discussions exhorts us to promote each individual’s active and equal participation in society, their integration into their communities, and the full enjoyment of their human rights.
In addition, the resolution also calls for early interventions, enhanced research and data collection, and equal educational opportunities.
US makes disability-inclusive diplomacy a policy priority
Ms. Cousens notes that the Obama Administration has made disability-inclusive diplomacy a policy priority.
The Administration is gratified to see the rights of persons with disabilities, including those with autism, gaining greater visibility and support throughout the world.
There are all areas to which the United States has devoted major effort.
She says from the work of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to the efforts of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services wbrings together government agency experts with public representatives in an Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee.
In addition, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act has also ensured services for children with disabilities throughout the nation.
US on autism research
The United States remains dedicated to continuing this progress by expanding investments in autism research, improving public health tracking, and providing early detection and services.
However, Ms. Cousens stresses the need to redouble efforts to eliminate stigma, discrimination and exclusion that remain part of the daily lives of some one billion people with disabilities around the world, including individuals with ASDs.
She explains these are inexcusably common challenges faced by people with disabilities in every society,.
All must work to remove barriers and develop comprehensive, integrated solutionsin the interests of ensuring that all persons with disabilities, and all individuals on the autism spectrum, enjoy the dignity, respect, and equality that everyone in our societies deserves, she underscored.
“As President Obama has said: “As new policies and bold actions break down old barriers and reshape attitudes, we move closer to a world free of discrimination and full of understanding for our family members and friends living with ASDs.” – Ms. Cousens
Autism is a growing problem in the United States and globally, with a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggesting the prevalence of autism could be as high as 1 in 50 for children aged 6 -17 years old.
Tens of millions of young people and adults around the world are affected by autism spectrum disorders, or ASDs, including nearly one in 88 children in United States.