Sunday is World Autism Awareness Day

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GREAT BAY, Sint Maarten (DCOMM) – The 2017 theme for World Autism Awareness Day observed around the world on Sunday, April 2 is: “Toward Autonomy and Self-Determination.”

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which entered into force in 2008, recognizes the right of persons with disabilities to independence of person and to individual autonomy (article 3).

Moreover, the CRPD highlights the right of persons with disabilities to “legal capacity on an equal basis with others and in all aspects of life” (article 12).

Legal capacity is instrumental to the recognition of a person as a human being of full personhood, with the right to take decisions and enter into contracts.

However, certain abilities that are commonly seen as necessary qualifications for full personal autonomy, usually creates a barrier to full societal inclusion for people with autism.

The department Collective Prevention Services (CPS) of the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour (Ministry VSA), says 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.

Globally all public policy-makers in developing nations and donor countries are called on to address the issue of stigmatization and discrimination associated with neurological differences as these behaviours creates substantial obstacles to diagnosis and therapies.

The global community of nations have been called to action to commit to offering employment opportunities for individuals on the autism spectrum. The call via the United Nations urges all stakeholders to work together with employers to facilitate their access to this largely untapped talent pool.

It is recommended that employers make concrete quantifiable pledges to increase the proportion of their workforce that is comprised of individuals on the autism spectrum.

Some of the recommended actions that employers can undertake to improve the opportunities for persons with autism are to be an advocate as it relates to demonstrating leadership in addressing the unacceptably high global unemployment rate of adults on the autism spectrum, estimated to be more than 80%.

Employers are asked to improve the quality of their products and services by tapping the specialized talents of employees on the spectrum, such as superior pattern recognition and attention to detail.

Employers are advised to achieve a better understanding of their customer base, is having a workforce that better reflects the general population.

Employers are asked to offer an attractive work environment to employees – a workplace where people with autism thrive is generally a great place for all employees to work.

In recognizing the global recommendations it is essential to assess what and how can initiatives be directed to stimulate development in the arena of adequate policies and legislations in support of the call to stimulate action in designing the steps to achieve “Toward Autonomy and Self-Determination” for persons living with autism.

The United Nations General Assembly unanimously declared 2 April as World Autism Awareness Day (A/RES/62/139) 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.

For more information, you can call CPS at 542-3003 or 542-2078.