Autism requires increasing global awareness

06Apr 2016
The Guardian
Autism requires increasing global awareness

AUTISM and other forms of disability are part of the human experience that contributes to human diversity. As such, the United Nations has emphasized the need to mainstream disability in the organization’s development agenda.

Mainstreaming disability requires an integral approach in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres, so that inequality is not perpetuated.

Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders – autism spectrum disorders – caused by a combination of genes and environmental influences.

These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by communication difficulties, social and behavioural challenges, as well as repetitive behaviours.

It is estimated that 70 million people are affected by autism worldwide, making it an urgent public health priority that requires increasing global awareness, services and research.

In September 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted the ambitious new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets that promise to leave no one behind.

While all SDGs are universally applicable, disability and persons with disabilities are explicitly referenced in the following goals: Quality Education; Decent Work and Economic Growth; Reduced Inequalities; Sustainable Cities and Communities; and Partnerships for the Goals.

This year’s observance will look ahead to 2030 and reflect on the new SDGs and their implications for improving the lives of people with autism.

This year’s theme is: "Autism and the 2030 Agenda: Inclusion and Neurodiversity".The Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the following about the autism day:

"On this World Autism Awareness Day, I call for advancing the rights of individuals with autism and ensuring their full participation and inclusion as valued members of our diverse human family who can contribute to a future of dignity and opportunity for all."

Tanzania marked World Autism awareness with the challenge of rolling out a special curriculum on children suffering from the condition in schools.

The current curriculum had locked out students suffering from autism. And it is very unfortunate that the curriculum that is in use doesn’t accommodate autistic people thus leaving them in peril.

The society as a whole is at fault for not recognizing people suffering from the condition, thus stigmatizing victims of the disease.

We are told that some parents hide their children for years once they discover that they suffer from such conditions.
We therefore challenge the district councils in the country to put facilities in place that will accommodate students with autism.

The society has a noble responsibility to ensure that people with autism were well catered for and assisted in their needs.

In the same vein, the government should put a special emphasis on all stakeholders help address the problem of stigma.