Over 60 representatives of European and non-European autism organisations from 24 countries gathered to discuss and vote on issues related to Autism-Europe (AE)’s activities and membership. Highlights of the meetings included participants welcoming two new members associations – Autismo Sevilla (Spain) and Fondazione Il Domani dell’Autismo ONLUS (Italy), updates about the projects and platforms in which AE is currently involved, discussions about Autism-Europe’s next International Congress in Nice in 2019, as well as discussion on future priorities.
On May 5, AE members had the opportunity to meet Croatian policy makers (Zvjezdana Bogdanović, representative of the Ministry of Demographics, Family, Youth and Social Policy, Dunja Poljak Skoko , representative of the Ministry of Health and Edita Šimunović Dundović, representative of the Ministry of Science, Education and Sport) and other stakeholders as Mira Pekeć Knežević, Ombudswomen for People with Disabilities, Melani Marković, representative of UNICEF and dean Antonija Žižak and professor Jasmina Frey Škrinja, from the Faculty of Education and Rehabilitation of the University of Zagreb.
Ombudswomen Mira Pekeć pointed out that shortcomings in Croatia as regard the full respect of the rights of people on the autism spectrum were highlighted in a special report that was accepted by the Croatian Parliament in 2015. This report took into account recommendations addressed to state bodies with the expert assistance of UNICEF and the cooperation of all three responsible ministries (the Ministry of Health, Science and Education and Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy). With the support of UNICEF, a national framework for early screening with adequate guidelines was also adopted in 2016 and should now be implemented on the ground. In April 2017, a new Disability Strategy Framework was released and Autism-Europe hopes it will fully take into account the needs of people on the autism spectrum. These needs pertain to access to diagnosis and early intervention, support for autistic adults, and the training of professionals.
In the afternoon, participants had also the opportunity to enjoy a study visit of community-based house in Mostari, organised by Udruga za autizam – Zagreb (member organisation of the Croatian Society for Autism). Our hosts Marka, Marija, Damir, Janka, Željka and Igor (adults on the autism spectrum who have been living in Mostari for six years) were joined by their parents, support workers and female vocal group Ive and warmly welcomed us to explain their activities. On their way, AE members also visited one community-based apartment managed by the same organisation and three others managed by Centar za Autizam.