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Autism across Europe

Policies to support persons with autism and their families are high on the agenda for European governments. However, measures for protecting autistic people’s rights are far from uniform across the EU.

Autism-specific legislation in different EU Member States varies in both form and scope: from single policies in specific areas to all-encompassing national autism plans or strategies. There is also discrepancy in Member States’ abilities to implement their policies. In countries severely affected by the financial crisis the implementation of autism policies has to be viewed in the context of high unemployment and reduced funding for services.

The ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) by the EU and all but one Member State, has had a clear impact on autism service provision. One of the most striking impacts is the gradual deinstitutionalisation taking place across the continent, in line with Article 19 of the UNCRPD[2]. In almost all Member States there is evidence of increasing inclusion of children with disabilities in mainstream educational settings, as well as measures to assist disabled people in accessing the labour market.

Furthermore, in preparation for the ratification of the convention almost all Member States have introduced national disability strategies, accompanied by a string of reforms to existing legislation. At the EU level, the ratification of the UNCRPD in 2010 brought about the creation of the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020. However, despite a call for action from the European Parliament, the Commission has yet to foresee a strategy specifically for autism, something that Autism-Europe has called for in the past and continues to push for.

Despite differences in the way autism support is provided throughout the EU, several commonalities remain. In all Member States persons with disabilities are shown to be considerably less likely to leave school with qualifications, go to university or find employment. They are also more likely to find themselves in financial precariousness that the average population. Clear communication between healthcare providers and persons with disabilities is a reoccurring issue, and better training for staff in autism and disabilities is shown to be needed in all public services.

Related information

Programme: ASDEU Autism Spectrum Disorders in the European Union (2015- 2017)

[1] Della Fina, V. and Cera, R., (2015). Protecting the Rights of People with Autism in the Fields of Education and Employment: International, European and National Perspectives. Springer Open, Switzerland.
[2] Available at: http://www.un.org/disabilities/documents/convention/convoptprot-e.pdf [Accessed 12/07/2016]