I treasure my meetings with individuals affected by autism – parents, children, teachers and friends. Their strength is inspiring. They deserve all possible opportunities for education, employment and integration.
To measure the success of our societies, we should examine how well those with different abilities, including persons with autism, are integrated as full and valued members.
Education and employment are key. Schools connect children to their communities. Jobs connect adults to their societies. Persons with autism deserve to walk the same path. By including children with different learning abilities in mainstream and specialized schools, we can change attitudes and promote respect. By creating suitable jobs for adults with autism, we integrate them into society.
At this time of economic constraint, governments should continue to invest in services that benefit persons with autism. When we empower them, we benefit current and future generations.
Tragically, in many parts of the world, these individuals are denied their fundamental human rights. They battle discrimination and exclusion. Even in places where their rights are secured, too often they still have to fight for basic services.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities provides a strong framework for action to create a better world for all.
World Autism Awareness Day is about more than generating understanding; it is a call to action. I urge all concerned to take part in fostering progress by supporting education programmes, employment opportunities and other measures that help realize our shared vision of a more inclusive world.