Autism is not limited to a single region or a country; it is a worldwide challenge that requires global action.
Although developmental disabilities such as autism begin in childhood, they persist throughout a person’s life. Our work with and for people with autism should not be limited to early identification and treatment; it should include therapies, educational plans and other steps that lead us towards sustained, lifelong engagement.
Reaching out to people with autism spectrum disorders requires global political commitment and better international cooperation, especially in sharing good practices. Greater investments in the social, education and labour sectors are crucially important, since developed and developing countries alike still need to improve their capacities to address the unique needs of people with autism and cultivate their talents. We also need to promote further research, train non-specialized care providers, and enable the autism community to more easily navigate care systems to obtain services that can support and mainstream individuals with autism.
The annual observance of World Autism Awareness Day is meant to spur such action and draw attention to the unacceptable discrimination, abuse and isolation experienced by people with autism and their loved ones. As highlighted by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, people with autism are equal citizens who should enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
On this Day in New York, Vienna and Geneva, the United Nations Postal Administration is releasing six commemorative postage stamps and two collectible envelopes dedicated to autism awareness. These tiny pieces of paper -- with images created by artists who have been diagnosed with autism – will send a powerful message to people around the world that talent and creativity live inside all of us.
My wife has been very involved with autism awareness and advocacy efforts, and has shared with me inspiring stories not only about individuals with autism, but also about those committed to improving their lives. Let us all continue to join hands to enable people with autism and other neurological differences to realize their potential and enjoy the opportunities and well-being that are their birthright.