On October 21 and 22, 40 people from 15 European countries met in Madrid for Autism-Europe’s second Council of Administration meeting of the year, hosted by Confederación Autismo España and held at the Caixa Fórum building in Madrid.
After a brief presentation by the host association Confederación Autismo España, Managing Director of Disability from the Spanish Ministry of Health, Borja Fanjul, introduced the Spanish Strategy for Autism Spectrum Disorders, approved in November 2015. Autismo España’s President Miguel Ángel de Casas, Jesús García Lorente, Managing Director of Autism and Technical Director, Ruth Vidriales explained the strategic lines and general content of this piece of legislation. Autism-Europe’s President Zsuzsanna Szilvasy highlighted the importance of this strategy, considered as a model of good practice for advocacy at the European level and the need to foster its implementation.
The meeting included the participation of Joaquín Fuentes (Policlínica Gipuzkoa, Donostia – San Sebastián, research consultant for Gautena) and Manuel Posada (Instituto de Salud Carlos III (ISCIII), who informed participants of the ASDEU programme, the activities of the association European Society for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (ESCAP) and the future update of the AE publication “Persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders Identification, Understanding, Intervention”.
At this meeting, representatives of European autism organisations gathered together to discuss and vote on issues related to AE’s activities and membership. Amaia Lopetegui was elected as a new member of the Council of Administration (now 41 members from 24 countries), replacing Ramón Barinaga from the Spanish member organisation Gautena. Highlights of the meetings included the presentation of AE’s quadrennial strategy 2018-2021 and work programme 2018. They have a strong emphasis on supporting access to education, employment and a better public health response (including mental health) for autism as well as fostering the participation of self-advocates.
Members received an update on the preparations for AE’s 12th International Congress in Nice in 2019 and a discussion about a framework guidance document on the quality of autism services.
On Friday 20, AE’s Council of Administration members visited the National Museum of Decorative Arts in Madrid and enjoyed a guided tour delivered by Mickey Mondejar, a young autistic student participating in the course “Cultural assistants”, organised by the Argadini Association.
On Sunday 22, a number of AE’s Council of Administration members also attended a meeting with local self-advocates to discuss about the main issues and concerns of people on the autism spectrum in Spain, in order to better understand their needs and aspirations.
About the Spanish National Strategy for Autism
In November 2015 the Spanish government adopted its first National Strategy for Autism, which aimed to develop specific measures to improve quality of life, promote awareness and identify and respond to the needs of those living with autism. The document considers fifteen main strategic lines, focusing on favouring independence, autonomy, full participation and integration, equality of accessibility, and non-discrimination. These guidelines are essential for improving social inclusion, quality of life and the protection of the rights of people with autism.
According to the third sector organisations that helped to draft the text, the need for the Strategy stems largely from the increasing numbers of people who, in recent years, have been diagnosed with autism. In 1975, the rate of diagnosis in Spain was merely one in 5,000. Today the figure is one in every 100 people. As such, there are currently around 450,000 people with autism in Spain. In addition, it is hoped that a nationwide strategy will help bridge the disparities across the country’s regions, namely with regards to care and treatment.