1 April 2013
Press Release
OBV/1207

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Films, Panel Discussions, Live Performances among Events to Mark Observance

 

of World Autism Awareness Day at Headquarters, 2 April

 


A growing number of countries are heralding a new call for involvement in addressing autism and other developmental disorders that affect millions of individuals and their families and societies worldwide as the United Nations and communities around the globe mark World Autism Awareness Day on 2 April with commemorative events including film screenings, panel discussions and live performances.


“This international attention is essential to address stigma, lack of awareness and inadequate support structures,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a message to mark the Day.  “Current research indicates that early interventions can help persons with autistic conditions to achieve significant gains in their abilities.  Now is the time to work for a more inclusive society, highlight the talents of affected people and ensure opportunities for them to realize their potential.”  (See Press Release SG/SM/14890-OBV/1195 of 20 March.)


In December 2007, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted resolution A/RES/62/139, declaring 2 April World Autism Awareness Day to highlight the need to help improve the lives of children and adults who suffer from the condition, so they can lead full and meaningful lives.  The rate of autism — a lifelong developmental disability that manifests itself during the first three years of life — is high in all regions of the world, and it has a tremendous impact on children, their families, communities and societies.  The number of children and adults with autistic conditions continues to rise across every nation and social group.


“Let us remind ourselves that together — whether we represent Governments, civil society, the private sector or the United Nations itself — we can make a significant difference in our collective goal to create a more caring and inclusive world for people with autism,” said Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information.


Children and adults with autism face major barriers associated with stigma and adverse discrimination, lack of access to support, discrimination, abuse and isolation, all of which violate their fundamental human rights, according to a General Assembly resolution (document A/RES/67/82) sponsored by Bangladesh and adopted in December 2012.  Giving young children the early and correct treatment is crucial for improving their prognosis and giving them the chance to maximize their potential, according to the text.


Those issues will be explored during two panel discussions, co-organized by the United Nations Department of Public Information and the Permanent Mission of the Philippines, to be held at Headquarters on 2 April from 1:15 p.m. to 6 p.m. in Conference Room 2 of the North Lawn Building.  Panellists addressing their respective themes, “Finding the ability in the disability of autism” and “Successful transition to adulthood”, will be Stephen Shore, Professor of Special Education at Adelphi University; Elaine Hall, founder of The Miracle Project, a groundbreaking theatre arts programme for autistic individuals profiled in the award-winning HBO documentary AUTISM: The Musical; Neal Katz, a teenager with autism who was featured in that film; Fazli Azeem from Pakistan, a graphic design Fulbright Scholar in Boston who is on the autism spectrum; and Idil Abdull from Somalia, who has a child with autism.


That segment of the event will feature musical performances by Talina and The Miracle Project.  It will include performers with autism and remarks by Mr. Launsky-Tieffenthal, who will also open a book-signing event at the United Nations Bookstore from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. with Stephen Shore, author of Beyond the Wall.


While public awareness remains low, global awareness of autism is growing.  The new General Assembly resolution demonstrates a commitment to helping affected individuals and families, and encouraging Member States and others to strengthen research and expand delivery of health, education, employment and other essential services.


A related panel discussion titled “Addressing the socioeconomic needs of individuals, families, and societies affected by autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disorders” will be held on the new resolution’s implementation.  It is co-organized by the Permanent Missions of Bangladesh, Bahrain, India, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United States, in collaboration with the Department of Public Information and the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.  It will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Conference Room 2 of the North Lawn Building.  On 4 April, the Permanent Mission of Israel will host a screening of the film This Is My Child at 1:15 p.m. in Conference Room E of the North Lawn Building.


Throughout its history, the United Nations has promoted the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities, including children with disabilities.  In 2006, the General Assembly adopted the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which sought to change the view of persons with disabilities as “objects” of charity to seeing them as “subjects” — capable of claiming their rights and making life decisions on the basis of their own free and informed consent — and as active members of society, thus reaffirming the fundamental principle of universal human rights for all.


This year, the World Health Assembly will take up the subject of autism spectrum disorders at its Executive Board session in May, while the General Assembly will hold a high-level meeting on 23 September to address the condition of more than 1 billion persons with disabilities, including those with autism spectrum disorders.


Mr. Ban hopes leaders attending the meeting will “seize this opportunity to make a meaningful difference that will help these individuals and our human family as a whole”.  The Secretary-General says:  “Let us continue to work hand in hand with persons with autism spectrum disorders, helping them to cultivate their strengths while addressing the challenges they face so they can lead the productive lives that are their birthright.”


Contacts:  Fred Doulton, tel.:  +1 212 963 4466 or e-mail:  doultonf@un.org; and Eileen Travers, Department of Public Information, tel.:  +1 212 963 2897 or e-mail:  travers@un.org.


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For information media • not an official record