Remarks by H.E. Ambassador Asoke K. Mukerji, Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations at the High Level Panel Discussion on "Autism: Awareness to Action" (co-organised by the Permanent Missions of Bangladesh, Chile, India, Nigeria, Qatar, USA and Autism Speaks)
(Tuesday, April 1, 2014)
Your Excellency Sheikha Aliya al Thani, Ambassdor and PR of Qatar, Your Excellency Ambassador Momen of Bangladesh,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the outset, I would like to recognize the important contribution of Qatar and Bangladesh, and Autism Speaks in focusing attention on the issue of autism on the eve of World Autism Awareness Day here at the United Nations.
Autism is a life-long development disorder as a consequence of neurological condition that typically appears within the first 2-3 years of life. At present, there are no known cures for autism, but early diagnosis and intervention are known to improve outcomes. Manifestations of autism are well known to all of us. The availability of new technologies and advances in research and development will assist in our efforts.
In India, we have taken legislative steps and set up necessary support structures to assist people with autism. The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995 provides the overarching legal framework. There is a National Trust for persons with autism that has worked with other ministries on up scaling early detection and interventions, provision of inclusive services including education and health, designing manuals for teachers to support autistic children, also designing an Indian Scale for Assessment of Autism that is being implemented.
As the Permanent Representative of Bangladesh mentioned, the Dhaka Declaration on Autism Spectrum Disorders and Development Disabilities of July 2011 and the Delhi Declaration of the South Asian Autism Network for Autism Spectrum Disorders issued at the Conference in February 2013, have helped raise awareness among policy makers and other stakeholders in our region on this issue. This will promote collaborative research on all aspects of autism and sharing of best practices including on evaluation of targeted interventions.
It is unacceptable that persons with autism are perceived as lacking any understanding. We need to change that mindset. We need to embrace differences. As equal members of one humanity, each one of us is entitled to a life of dignity and fulfillment.
I am sure that our discussions today will advance our common resolve and endeavor in this regard. I look forward to the conclusions of this morning's panel discussions.