In 1980, several associations of parents of autistic people from various European countries got together to organise their first Congress. The aim was to encourage the exchange of knowledge among researchers, medical doctors and other professionals active in the field of autism. As a result, information about causes, diagnosis, care, management and education also became more available to parents, and fuelled their activities.
During the preparation of a second Congress in 1983, the associations involved decided to create a permanent umbrella association named Autism-Europe. Initially, Autism-Europe was comprised of 23 national and regional associations.
Autism-Europe was founded in the context of a changing public understanding of all disabilities. A new conception of disability was emerging, called “the social model of disability” (as opposed to the “medical model of disability”), which aimed to redefine disability to focus on the relationship between people and their environment.
There have been several notable achievements since Autism-Europe began its activities. Here are some of the highlights:
- Increased awareness of autism throughout Europe (since 1983);
- Charter of rights for persons with autism adopted as a written declaration by the European Parliament (1996);
- Landmark decision of the Council of Europe (Autism-Europe v. France, complaint No. 13/2002) whereby France was found to have failed its educational obligations to autistic persons under the European Social Charter. It was the first collective complaint to defend the rights of people with disabilities in Europe (2004);
- Council of Europe Resolution ResAP(2007)4 on the education and social inclusion of children and young people on the autism spectrum drafted with expertise from Autism-Europe (2007);
- United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities drafted with participation from Autism-Europe (2007);
- Adoption of the Written Declaration on Autism, co-signed by 418 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). The document calls on the European Union and its Member States to adopt a European strategy for autism (2015).
More information on our achievements and what our members say about our work can be found in the special 30th anniversary edition of our LINK magazine below: