On World Autism Day 2018 (April 2), a new Autism Advisory Council was launched by the Maltese Parliamentary Secretary for Persons with Disability and Active Ageing, Anthony Agius Decelis. The Council’s aim is to draft a national strategy on autism, in the framework of the country’s new autism Act, known as the ‘Persons within the Autism Spectrum (Empowerment) Act, 2015’.
The Council, chaired by Autism-Europe individual member, lawyer and self-advocate, Dr Alistair De Gaetano, has been tasked with drafting a national autism strategy within the timeframe of a year, and then monitoring and updating the strategy in the years to come. As well as drafting a national autism strategy, the Council will also advise the government and assist it in various sectors, including lifelong learning and gaining personal autonomy, therapeutic interventions and equal opportunities.
The Parliamentary Secretary Anthony Agius Decelis pointed out that, whereas there are various national autism strategies either existing or taking shape in other European countries, the Maltese strategy will be unique in that it will be based around the concept of empowerment.
The new Empowerment Act outlines a number of key priorities, including:
- collecting appropriate, anonymous and aggregated information on the collective population of persons within the autism spectrum, including statistics and research data;
- the promotion of vocational training, when required, and skills development programmes for persons within the autism spectrum
- the enabling of persons within the autism spectrum to learn life and social development skills
- enhancement of access to appropriate support services
- the formulation of feasible, effective and sustainable intervention programmes
- training for parents and other persons who work with persons within the autism spectrum
- promoting coordinated research regarding the identification of causes
- empowering persons within the autism spectrum by providing for their health, education, well-being and participation in all aspects of society and the betterment of their living conditions
- promoting self-determination amongst persons within the autism spectrum
- encouraging personal autonomy and active citizenship
- encouraging early identification of children within the autism spectrum and providing early intervention services for children to achieve optimal participation in their home, school and locality
- encouraging family engagement
- educational support and services
- access to sports and leisure
- adult support
- training for professional and personal development.
Text of the Persons within the Autism Spectrum (Empowerment) Act in full (In English and Maltese only)