On November 16th and 17th 2019, members of the Autism-Europe (AE)’s Council of Administration and observers from 15 countries met in Brussels in order to reinforce their capacity to liaise with the CRPD committee, discuss about AE advocacy and campaigning activities – in particular in relation to access to education and employment – as well as its various projects.
The first day, the meeting included the participation of Marine Uldry, Human Rights Officer for the European Disability Forum (EDF), who delivered a workshop on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) review process and the various ways to provide input to the CRPD Committee. The objectives of this workshop were to reinforce the capacity of AE members to provide input to the CRPD Committee by:
- Developing a better understanding of the work of the CRPD Committee and its different activities;
- Identifying how the Committee can advance the rights of persons on the autism spectrum;
- Being informed of the different ways to engage with the CRPD Committee.
At this meeting, representatives of European autism organisations met to discuss and vote on various issues related to AE’s activities. This meeting was also an opportunity to initiate the presidential transition between Executive Committee member Harald Neerland (Norway), President-elect of Autism-Europe, and current president Zsuzsanna Szilvasy (Hungary), who is ending her second mandate after 8 years in the position. It was an opportunity to thank Zsuzsanna and outgoing executive committee members – Evelyne Friedel, Maria Wroniszewska, Pietro Cirrincione, and Claude Schmit – for their work over the years.
Highlights of the meetings included the presentation of the implementation of the work programme 2019, the proposal of work programme 2020 and AE awareness-raising and advocacy campaign for 2020-2021. Members also discussed the results of AE survey on barriers to education for autistic people (to which 2.200 people from across the EU and beyond responded) and AE ensuing recommendations. Other ongoing AE activities have a strong emphasis on supporting access to education, employment and a better public health response (including mental health) for autism as well as fostering the participation of self-advocates.
The positive results as well as feedback of participants on AE’s 12th International Congress held in Nice in September 2019 were presented by Anne Freulon from Autisme France. AE response to on-going public consultation by the European Commission on the European Social Fund (ESF) that supports social inclusion, combats poverty and fights discrimination was also discussed ( the consultation is open to all and the deadline is: December 19th 2019).
To conclude the meeting, Suncica Petrovic from the AE’s member the Serbian Autistic Society presented the experience of using robots to work with autistic children in the framework of the DE-ENIGMA project (in which AE is also involved); and Feliciea Jibson presented the initiative PAGS®, a digital communication platform for skill development of neuro-diverse learners aged 5-25 with social communication difficulties, related to social, emotional, behavioural, and cognitive functioning.
After the Council of Administration meeting, an informal roundtable was held in AE offices with autistic people from Liège, Flanders, and Brussels Region to discuss about their experiences in relation to accessing diagnosis, employment, or education and services. These meetings are an opportunity to establish dialogue with autistic people across Europe.