The first National Autism Strategy was approved

The Council of Ministers approved today the first National Strategy and Action Plan for Autism

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The Council of Ministers proceeded today with the approval of the first National Strategy and the Action Plan for Autism, with the Deputy Minister of Social Welfare Marilena Evangelou stressing that the implementation of the strategy will allow the authorities to have a holistic approach as well as the real image of this disability , which shows increasing trends both internationally and in Cyprus.

In statements after the session of the Council of Ministers, Mrs. Evangelou said that the action for the implementation of the Strategy begins with one of the first actions concerning the creation of a national electronic platform for autism, as well as information programs, training, upgrading and expansion of services provided.

"The establishment of the national strategy and action plan for autism separately from other disabilities was deemed necessary as there is an increase in autism diagnoses both in our country and internationally, but also because autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder, which it is characterized by a different degree of difficulty in each case with varying levels and gradation of symptoms but also challenges", explained Mrs. Evangelou.

According to Ms. Evangelou, the National Strategy and Action Plan for Autism 2024 – 2028 includes 53 actions under 7 thematic pillars following the course of the life of a child, an adult with autism, i.e. research, early detection and diagnosis, health and therapeutic intervention, early child and family intervention, education, social protection and independent living, work and participation in entertainment, culture and society.

He also emphasized that the importance of the national strategy is that it also provides the possibility of gathering all services related to autism under the umbrella of the national strategy for better coordination of actions and a holistic response to needs and challenges.

"The action now begins", he continued, "for the implementation of the strategy and the Action Plan, our first concern is the continuation of the operation of the National Committee which I will convene very soon, the establishment of permanent sub-committees with the coordination of the Department of Social Integration Persons with Disabilities of the Deputy Ministry of Social Welfare and the systematic cooperation of all involved bodies and especially the organizations that represent the same persons with autism".

As he said, the coordinating body of the National Strategy is the Deputy Ministry of Social Welfare and other Ministries also participate in it, such as the Ministries of Labour, Health, Education, Transport and Finance.

We want to have the full picture in Cyprus

Asked about the cases of autism in Cyprus, Mrs. Evangelou said that according to data from the World Health Organization 1 in 100 children or adults internationally are diagnosed with autism, while in Cyprus the recorded data of the Department of Social Integration of Persons with Disabilities speaks of 2.000 cases .

He noted, however, that "one of the reasons for the need to establish this national strategy is to record the true picture of the situation in the country" because clearly the Department of Social Integration of Persons with Disabilities of the Deputy Ministry has the data of the persons who belong to the Department for the benefits or the services it offers".

So, he said, one of the objectives of the national strategy is to have the real picture of the number and not only in terms of numbers but also what is provided to these people in terms of services, how they live, what treatment they follow, how they are their integration and activation in society.

Mrs. Evangelou also explained that there is a large gradation of the autism spectrum with different symptoms and needs and challenges that exist. “So there may be people who don't feel they need the support or services. But we must know the real picture that exists", he added.

"I personally believe that there are more (people with autism), how many more and why they have not been referred to the Social Integration Service with Disabilities remains to be proven down the road," he added.

At this point Mrs. Evangelou also said that "we are not starting from scratch", as there are programs aimed at people with autism and she mentioned the Aktida program for people with preschool age autism that intervenes immediately after the diagnosis by offering psychosocial and educational both to the individuals with autism themselves and to their family environment.

He gave as an example that through the national strategy there will be continuous trainings based on all the new scientific data for professionals, such as doctors, pediatricians, teachers and kindergarten teachers in schools where there are children for the early diagnosis of autism. "Why is early diagnosis and intervention important, he emphasized.

Mrs. Evangelou said that as part of the Strategy, the organization of a national conference on autism is also planned next autumn, which will be established every year.

Source: KYPE