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The Autism Awareness Campaign's appeal reaches South Asian Heads of State at the SAARC Summit



Autism appeal to South Asian political leaders

Pakistan News Wire
January 6, 2004

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: Ivan and Charika Corea, parents and carers of an autistic child and founders of the Autism Awareness Campaign, have appealed to SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation) leaders currently meeting in Islamabad to take urgent action on autism.

Autism is on the rise in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives - the countries within the SAARC region.

Ivan and Charika Corea initiated 2002 as Autism Awareness Year in the United Kingdom. Their campaign is now the largest ever movement for autism in the UK and has the support of the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and parliamentarians of all parties in the Houses of Commons and Lords in London.

"We need urgent action by the heads of state and national governments in the SAARC region to look into the rise in autism and find common ways and strategies in tackling the whole issue of autism," said Ivan, including joint educational and health strategies and the sharing of good practice from SAARC countries.

"We recommend the setting up of a SAARC Autism Committee comprising of officials from the SAARC countries to discuss ways forward," said Ivan. "We urge SAARC countries to launch a data collection initiative in their respective countries and provide public services for people with autism and Asperger's syndrome. We recommend a common strategy in relation to the training of special educational needs teachers and specialist speech therapists in the SAARC region."

He appealed to political leaders to "reach out to the autistic community in the SAARC region. Autism is a time-bomb waiting to happen. If there is a rise in numbers of people with autism in South Asia, are SAARC countries in a position to provide public services for these people who have a very specific disability? Have staff been trained? What about the dissemination of information on autism and Asperger's syndrome in the major languages of the SAARC region?

"There are only a handful of organisations in the voluntary sector who are in a position to help the autistic community. National governments must provide support services for all people with disabilities. We need new ways of thinking where disabilities in the SAARC region are concerned."