Early intervention is the best way to enable children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) achieve the maximum success in developing skills and abilities that are challenging to them, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a message for World Autism Awareness Day. The goal of the message was to close the "awareness gap" in nations where knowledge about autism interventions and treatments may be lacking. From a release posted on the UN's website:
"Now is the time to work for a more inclusive society, highlight the talents of affected people and ensure opportunities for them to realize their potential," Mr. Ban said in his message on World Autism Awareness Day, which is marked annually on 2 April.
"International attention is essential to address stigma, lack of awareness and inadequate support structures," he added.
Autism is characterized by varying degrees of impairment in communication skills and social interactions and in restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour.
In her video message for the Day, Ban Soon-taek, the Secretary-General's wife, noted the UN's commitment to raising awareness about autism.
"Let us continue to work hand-in-hand with affected individuals which strengthens their lives and helps society as a whole," Mrs. Ban said.
In New York, two panel discussions take place today to celebrate the abilities of people with autism. In addition to scholars and civil society representatives, the panels feature Neal Katz, a teenager with autism featured in the film 'Autism The Musical' Fazli Azeem, a Fulbright Scholar from Pakistan who is on the autism spectrum; and Idil Azeem from Somalia, who has a child with autism.
UN Headquarters in New York is also hosting a musical performance by Talina and The Miracle Project, which includes performers with autism, as well as a film screening.
Image: Autism awareness ribbon, via Shutterstock