MEP Nicola Caputo (first signatory of the written declaration), MEP Marek Plura (co-signatory and co-President of the disability intergroup) and MEP Miriam Dalli (co-signatory) co-chaired the conference, which was also attended by MEP Jordi Sebastiá (co-signatory).
The event welcomed over 70 representatives of autism organisations, researchers, practitioners, policy makers and other interested parties from all over Europe to discuss the grounds for a European strategy for autism.
The conference highlighted the importance of responding to the urgent needs of 5 million EU citizens affected by autism, considering that autism is a human rights and public health issue.
Autism-Europe and the MEPs called on EU policy-makers to develop a European strategy to tackle the discrimination faced by people with autism and their families across Europe.
The panel included autism representatives and experts, as well as key representatives from the European commission.
The speakers, in order of their presentations, were the following:
Antoni Montserrat (Public health, policy officer, DG SANTE), who explained the different actions currently supported under the European Union’s Health Programme related to autism spectrum disorders (ASD), such as ASDEU and EU-AIMS.
Joaquín Fuentes (MD – Policlinica Gipuzkoa, San Sebastián, European Society for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (ESCAP) Autism Field Advisor, and scientific advisor to the ASDEU coordinator), provided background on current prevalence data and research developments, and highlighted key challenges to support the quality of life of European citizens with ASD.
María-Luisa Cabral (Head of the Rights of persons with disabilities unit, DG EMPL), who informed the audience about the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 and the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of people with disabilities by the EU. She also highlighted the importance of the EU structural funds to foster inclusion.
Donata Vivanti (vice-President of European Disability Forum and member of AE council of administration), recalled the needs of people with autism in the various policy areas where the European Union has competences. She also presented Autism-Europe’s demands in the process of the review of the implementation of the UNCRPD by the European Union.
Johanna Manikiza (ASD National Strategic Coordinator for Wales), presented the Welsh strategy for autism and explained how it is supported via a national resources.
Evelyne Friedel (Vice-President of Autism-Europe) demonstrated the need for a European strategy to better implement the rights of people with autism at a national and European level.
Imma Chiatto (BCBA) and Laura Cavaliere (BCBA), who talked about the right to effective and evidence-based treatment for people with ASD.
Vincenzo Abate (President of the association “La forza del silenzio”), who presented a video presenting their activities to support people with autism.