Autism is a lifelong neurological condition that manifests during early childhood, irrespective of gender, race or socio-economic status. The term Autism Spectrum refers to a range of characteristics. Appropriate support, accommodation and acceptance of this neurological variation allow those on the Spectrum to enjoy equal opportunity, and full and effective participation in society. Autism is mainly characterized by its unique social interactions, non-standard ways of learning, keen interests in specific subjects, inclination to routines, challenges in typical communications and particular ways of processing sensory information.
The rate of autism in all regions of the world is high and the lack of understanding has a tremendous impact on the individuals, their families and communities. The stigmatization and discrimination associated with neurological differences remain substantial obstacles to diagnosis and therapies, an issue that must be addressed by both public policy-makers in developing nations, as well as donor countries. Throughout its history, the United Nations family has celebrated diversity and promoted the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities, including children with learning differences and developmental disabilities. In 2008, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities entered into force, reaffirming the fundamental principle of universal human rights for all. Its purpose is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity. It is a solid tool to foster an inclusive and caring society for all and to ensure that all children and adults with autism can lead full and meaningful lives.
The United Nations General Assembly unanimously declared 2 April as World Autism Awareness Day to highlight the need to help improve the quality of life of those with autism so they can lead full and meaningful lives as an integral part of society.
2016 Theme: "Autism and the 2030 Agenda: Inclusion and Neurodiversity"
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. 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: 4) Quality Education; 8) Decent Work and Economic Growth; 10) Reduced Inequalities; 11) Sustainable Cities and Communities; and 17) 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.