Today the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) unanimously passed a new resolution calling on governments to take urgent action to improve access to long-term healthcare, education, training and intervention programs for persons with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), developmental disorders (DD), and associated disabilities, at local, national and international levels. The resolution was drafted and tabled by the Mission of Bangladesh with the support of Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, and more than 70 co-sponsors.
The new resolution will enable UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to bring ASD, DD, and other disabilities to the attention of all member states and UN organizations in advance of the High Level Meeting of the General Assembly on the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and other internationally agreed development goals for persons with disabilities that will take place in September 2013.
During the discussion of the resolution at the UN General Assembly, several of the co-sponsors spoke about advances in government support and service provision for individuals and families affected by ASD in their home countries. The representative from Israel said that their country is currently introducing a law that will provide individuals with ASD lifelong government support. Saudi Arabia spoke of the need to recognize the special talents of those with ASD and of the success of a new organization called The Charitable Society for Autism Families in Saudi Arabia, an effort led by Princess Samira bint Abdullah Al-Farhan. Indonesia highlighted the importance of capacity-building as well as support for not only affected individuals, but also their families.From the General Assembly:
[The] Assembly addressed the socio-economic needs related to autism and developmental disorders by adopting a relevant resolution without a vote. By the text, the Assembly called on all States to enable persons with autism, developmental disorders and associated disabilities to learn life and social development skills to facilitate their full and equal participation in education and as members of the community.
Speaking before action on the text, the representative of Bangladesh said that Mozart, Beethoven, Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking, misunderstood as children, had been on the autism or Asperger’s spectrum. Yet, all of those icons had achieved great success in later life. Their minds worked differently than a traditional learner, but because they had been able to find their places in the society, they had engaged their strengths and they had enriched the world. “We have a whole population whose talents go undiscovered and whose gifts go unshared, with their place in the world having only been carved out in niches,” he said.
He went on to urge all Member States to cosponsor the resolution, saying: “We urgently need to remove the stigma that is associated with disabilities in general and neuro-developmental disorders specifically, and empower parents so that they can be partners in the treatment process and informed advocates for their loved ones.”
The delegate of the United States said “autism is no longer hidden”, noting that, as recently as the 1990s, researchers had believed that the condition was rare. A recent big step forward in the United States had developed the new Affordable Care Act, which required insurance companies to cover autism screenings, and disallowed companies from denying care because of “existing preconditions”.