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Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe calls for a more “autism-friendly” world

On 4 December 2020, The Standing Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a report calling for “person-centred and life-long support” for people on the autism spectrum and their families.

The report entitled “Supporting people with autism and their families” calls for stamping out stigma, negative stereotyping and discrimination against people on the autism spectrum and their families. It places importance on including autistic people and their families in developing specific policies to support them and calls for mandatory autism trainings for social workers, teachers, doctors, police officers, legal professionals and other working professionals.

Additionally, the report addresses the need for swift and thorough diagnosis for both children and adults as well as extra support for autistic people in educational settings, at work, and when coming in contact with the police or justice system.

During the virtual session of the Standing Committee of the PACE, Rapporteur Sevinj Fataliyeva from Azerbaijan highlighted the preliminary results of the ACCESS-EU study on access to services for autistic people. The EU-wide study was conducted by researchers from the Autism Research Center of University of Cambridge and Autism-Europe, as part of the AIMS-2-TRIALS project.

Following the rapporteur’s intervention deputies from the UK, Netherlands, Germany, France and Portugal addressed the Standing Committee of PACE, many of them stressing the need to embrace diversity and create the conditions for an inclusive society.

Liberal Dutch deputy and politician, Reina de Bruijn-Wezeman emphasised that the PACE report echoes her report to end coercive practices in mental health adopted by the PACE last year. German left-wing MP and PACE rapporteur on handling the COVID-19 crisis, Andrej Hunko emphasized the heightened vulnerability of people on the autism spectrum at this time. French liberal deputy and PACE rapporteur on deinstitutionalisation, Liliana Tanguy highlighted the importance of developing community-based services. Finally, Portuguese social democratic deputy Luis Leite Ramos, chair of the PACE Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, said it was time that society learn to adapt to autistic people and not the other way around.

The report was adopted by 20 votes in favour, none against and one abstention.

Deputy Sevinj Fataliyeva drafted the report following a motion for resolution on the topic in 2018. The report was also influenced by a PACE hearing with an autistic self-representative in January 2020 as well a fact-finding mission to the UK, which took place virtually in September 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During the mission, Ms. Fataliyeva was briefed by AE’s member, the National Autistic Society as well as the above mentioned AIMS-2-TRIALS researchers.