On the 29 and 30 January 2018, Autism-Europe unveiled its preliminary recommendations for a European Strategy for Autism based on a wide consultation and the results of its mapping of policies and legislation across the EU in the framework of a high-level conference on the preliminary research results of the ASDEU programme.
Over these two days, Madrid played host to around one hundred decision-makers and key stakeholders who came together to discuss a range of key issues including prevalence, early detection, evidence-based intervention and access to care for the elderly.
The Institute of Rare Disease Research, part of the University Carlos III in Madrid, was the venue chosen for the final conference of the EU-funded ASDEU programme. It was an occasion for the programme partners – coming from fourteen different countries – to present the outcomes of their research. Those present to hear about the initial research findings included elected officials, representatives from national ministries and the European Institutions, autism advocacy groups and universities from 29 European countries.
The event was therefore also a platform for national representatives – above all from social, health, education, labour and equal opportunity ministries – to discuss the finding and take learning back to their home countries.
The scope of the ASDEU research was wide, looking into areas such as prevalence, the economic and social costs of autism, early diagnostic and evidence-based intervention, and effective care and support for adults and older people on the autism spectrum.
Autism-Europe’s call for a holistic EU autism strategy
Within ASDEU, Autism-Europe is the leader of the Work Package on autism policies in the EU. As such, it is responsible for formulating recommendations for a public health plan for autism based on a mapping of existing policies in relation to autism conducted across the EU as well as an extensive consultation process.
Autism-Europe Director, Aurélie Baranger, thus presented the list of initial key recommendations for a holistic EU autism strategy. Taking into consideration the specific competences of the EU, the recommendations span several areas to address the needs of autistic people in Europe: screening and diagnosis, access to health, education, individual lifelong support, employment, training of professionals, independent living, legal capacity, empowerment of autistic people and their families, as well as research.
Closing the conference, Antoni Montserrat, Senior advisor in the European Commission Directorate of Health and Consumer Protection, welcomed the high relevance of Autism-Europe’s recommendations for a future EU strategy on autism. He also called on EU Member States representatives to support such a EU autism strategy at their governmental level, given that a clear impulse of the Council of the European Union is paramount to have such a strategy come to light.
In the lifetime of ASDEU initiative, the European Parliament has also expressed strong support for an EU autism strategy, notably by adopting a Written Declaration in 2015 endorsed by 408 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). It echoes the fact that several Member States have seen the added value of adopting autism strategies at the national level, two of the most recent examples of which were presented at the conference in Madrid.
The Parliamentary Secretary for Persons with Disability and Active Ageing of the Maltese government, Hon. Decelis, presented the recently adopted ‘Persons within the Autism Spectrum (Empowerment) Act’ in Malta, and MEP Miriam Dalli from Malta also reiterated her support for a EU strategy.
Representatives from the Spanish Ministry of Health, Javier Salgado and Casado also presented the health dimension of the Spanish Strategy for autism that was adopted in 2015.
The final results of the ASDEU programme partners will be made available in a final report in the course of 2018.
About the ASDEU programme
ASDEU is a three-year programme funded by the Directorate-General of Health and Food Safety (DG-SANTE) aiming to increase understanding of and improve responses to the needs of people on the autism spectrum.