“Autism and Human Rights: Understanding and Safeguarding the Rights of People with Autism”
Sunday, January 17, 2010
10:59 AM
The United Nations recently held a briefing in the observance of those with autism. The briefing focused on the need to increase education rights and fundamental human rights for those with autism, and to increase understanding of autism and respect of those who combat autism daily. In certain cultures, autism is confused as being a mental illness and as a result, children are neglected from proper care and health benefits, and are often kept at home and hidden from society.

World Autism Day was established by a UN General Assembly resolution in December of 2007 to increase awareness of autism. “Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or autism is a developmental disability considered the result of a neurological condition affecting normal brain function, development and social interactions. Families and those closely associated with individuals affected with autism find it difficult or impossible to understand or relate to them. Those with autism find it difficult to communicate with their loved ones due to restrictive patterns of behavior. Great efforts are being made to find a cure, yet there is no known cause or effective treatment. In the United States alone, “1 in 150 people are estimated to have an autism spectrum-related disorder.”

Non-governmental organizations and governments provide the best efforts to give care and support so those with autism can lead as dignified lives as possible. Non-governmental organizations help insure housing and job opportunities, though it still remains an important challenge. Families are the only ones who really know what it is like to be there for their autistic loved one(s). Dealing with it is neither simple nor easy. NGO’s and governments want to increase the help for autistic children and have worked tirelessly.

Dr. Hatem El-Shanti is the Director of the Genetic Medical Center at the Shafallah Center in Qatar. He is also a pediatrician and has a solid track record for genetic research. “There has to be early treatment options,” insisted Dr. El-Shanti. “We need to increase the kills of health care providers in order to detect autism early on.”

Paulo Barrozo is a Professor of Law at Harvard University and Boston College. He has a PhD in Political Science. The next development of human rights is working with those with mental disabilities. “We have to recognize those in need of support. More people need to be included and more international human rights have to be acknowledged,” advised Barrozo. “There needs to be respect and consideration for those involved with autism.”

Evelyne Friedel is the President of Autism Europe. Autism Europe strives to allow people with autism to enjoy the same rights as the rest of the population. She is a lawyer who works in a business law firm. She is also the mother of an autistic child. She explained that autism is a significant lifelong disability, which affects all forms of communication and social interactions. “The autistic represents a particularly excluded population, even among the disabled population themselves,” Friedel made clear. “They also need continuing assistance for safety purposes, intensive education and assistance in activities of daily lives.”

The fundamental rights of these people are rarely effective if positive measures are not adopted. The situations of rights are complex and diverse, the needs are not standard. For those with autism, there needs to be an early diagnosis and early intervention. Other needs include: the right to receive adopted care all life long, a right to work, access to private housing with appropriate guardianship systems, treatment must be limited to their needs and a right to a lifelong education where special schools must be linked or within the mainstream schools. Education for people with autism must include: a preparation for an independent life and adaptive behaviors for school skills.

Lee Grossman is the President and CEO of Autism Society of America. He is also the publisher of the Autism Advocate Journal. (Paulo also works for the Autism Society of America). He also has a two year old son with autism. “You have to appreciate who they are and the wonderful gifts they had,” explained Grossman. “Otherwise autism can decimate a family. The families that have to cope are very heroic.”

The autism community is 10 million large. “We know enough about autism to change it,” Grossman claimed. “The problem is accessibility to help.” Causes of autism include genetic predispositions and environmental factors. To help those strive with autism, we must improve the quality of life, which includes social inclusion, autonomy, health and well being and academic success. “It is important to expand access to treatments, interventions and services. There should be no delay receiving services that can improve the quality of life. There is hope! We can provide this sort of help around the world. At the end of the day, we want to maximize potential and improve the quality of life.”

For more information go to autism-society.org.

Pat Matthews is the Executive Director of the Irish Society of Autism. He is also a parent of a child with autism. A startling statistic states that 1 in 100 children are reported to be affected with autism. “Doing nothing is not an option,” stated Matthews. “Those affected need dignity, respect and a life without abuse. We need more autism awareness. Without awareness, we will go nowhere. We need worldwide research to identify the cause of autism. The ball is in our court.”

Stephen Shore is an Assistant Professor at Adelphi University. He suffered from the effects of autism as a young child. At 18 months the “autism bomb” dropped. There was a loss of speech, tantrums and environmental withdrawal. He was non-verbal until age 4. “I was lucky because I had parents who advocated for me,” Shore stated reluctantly. “It is important to emphasize sensory integration.” To help him, his parents imitated Shore when he was a young child to help him become more aware of his environment. “Instead, do not think of autism as a bomb. Look at it more positively as “restricted interests.”

Shore is the author of the book “Beyond the Wall,” about personal experiences with autism and aspergers syndrome. Shore stated proudly that, “If you are productive and fulfilled with your life, you are probably successful.”

Location: United Nations Headquarters
Author: Vanessa Pinto
NGO: Manhattanville College

I'm a senior majoring in English. I attend and report on UN Briefings and other meetings from October through May. I published a novel at the age of seventeen and have three years of writing experience for my college newspaper, literary and travel magazine. My focus is magazine & editorial writing and travel documentary. I am also active in global volunteer efforts for peace and interfaith alliance, as well as the promotion of animal rights, women's rights and education, and disaster relief.

UNA-USA: YPIC, World Youth Alliance, GPC, Seeds of Peace, WHO, UNICEF, UN University

All briefings are held at or outside the UN Headquarters in NYC. Contact your NGO to find out how you can attend. Be sure to reserve your spot a week in advance.

More Information
Lists of NGOs and contact info. are available at the UN website's DPI/NGO section.

October 2009
January 2010