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South Asian media published our appeal which coincided with the SAARC Summit:

SAARC Heads of State in Islamabad


Appeal to SAARC Summit in Islamabad on Autism

Monday January 05, 2004 (0058 PST)

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Ivan and Charika Corea of the Autism Awareness Campaign have appealed to SAARC Leaders currently meeting in Islamabad to take urgent action on Autism.

Autism is on the rise in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives - the countries within the SAARC region.

Ivan and Charika Corea, parents and carers of an autistic child launched a massive Autism Awareness Campaign in Sri Lanka. There are 30,000 autistic people in Sri Lanka, according to international experts there will be a massive rise in 5 years time - in Sri Lanka and all over the SAARC region.

Scientists are still divided as to the causes of autism - parents are still asking the question - is ithe MMR, is it genetic, is it caused by foetal distress at birth. Asian parents need answers to these pressing questions on Autism.

Support for the Autism Awareness Campaign came from the highly influential European Union parliamentarian Nirj Deva MEP. Nirj Deva was born in Sri Lanka, he joins a whole host of dignitaries who support the campaign.

Ivan and Charika Corea initiated 2002 as Autism Awareness Year in the United Kingdom. Their campaign is now the largest ever movement for autism in the UK and has the support of the British Prime Minister Tony Blair and parliamentarians of all parties in the Palace of Westminster in London.

Ivan Corea said,' We need urgent action by the Heads of State and national governments in the SSARC region to look into the rise in autism and find common ways and strategies in tackling the whole issue of autism, joint educational and health strategies, the sharing of good practice from SAARC countries.

SAARC provides a platform for the people of South Asia to work together.

Our recommendations:

We urge the President of Sri Lanka, Her Excellency Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga to take the urgent matter up of AUTISM IN SAARC with the Heads of State in the SAARC region.

We urge SAARC Health, Education and Social Services to discuss the matter at their respective Summits.

We recommend the setting up of a SAARC Autism Committee comprising of officials from the SAARC countries to discuss ways forward.

We urge SAARC countries to launch a data collection initiative in their respective countries and provide public services for people with Autism and Asperger's Syndrome.

We recommend a common strategy in relation to the training of special educational needs teachers and specialist speech therapists in the SAARC region.

Our appeal to SAARC Leaders - please reach out to the Autistic Community in the SAARC region. Autism is a time bomb waiting to happen. If there is a rise in numbers of people with autism in South Asia, are SAARC countries in a position to provide public services for these people who have a very specific disability. Have staff been trained, what about the dissemination

of information on Autism and Asperger's Syndrome in the major languages of the SAARC region.

There are only a handful of organisations in the voluntary sector who are in a position to help the Autistic Community. National Governments must provide the support services for all people with disabilities. We need new ways of thinking where disabilities in the SAARC region is concerned.

We urge action in SAARC and we are asking the President of Sri Lanka to take this matter up with SAARC Heads of State.

For information on the Autism Awareness Campaign in Sri Lanka please view the website:

SAARC Heads of State must take action on Autism