Labour MEPs place autism high on Europe's agenda

Miriam Dalli and Marlene Mizzi push a written declaration on autism through the European Parliament

Labour MEPs Miriam Dalli and Marlene Mizzi successfully managed to put autism on the European agenda after pushing a written declaration on autism through the European Parliament.

The declaration, penned in collaboration with various other MEPs and Autism Europe, called upon the European Commission and the European Council to adopt a strategic and holistic approach to respond to the challenges faced by people with autism throughout their lives.

Autism, which is estimated to effect around 1% of the population, can have severe effects on people’s lives that can deeply affect their ability to understand everyday information, communicate and interact socially with other people. However people with autism can still excel in other areas of life.

The causes of autism are still unknown and there is currently no cure. However, it has been demonstrated that early and intensive intervention can help overcome the symptoms of autism and significantly improve the level of independence of people with autism.

Early diagnosis is found to provide for adequate support and education on the topic, however early detection is still lacking across Europe.

The declaration recognises this, and calls on the Commission and Council to support accurate detection and diagnosis of children and adults with autism.

The declaration also called for the sharing of good practice, stresses the need for more research and to also focus on the needs of both adults and children with this condition. 

Miriam Dalli said that society needed to make a conscious effort in trying to understand the realities of these individuals, stressing that there is much more that can be done to help children and persons who suffer from autism.

“Apart from these efforts on the European Parliament level, I held separate meetings with Autism Europe and with Autism Parents Association Malta. Listening to the parents’ experiences and expectations made me realise even more that while consecutive Maltese Governments dedicated more resources to this condition, including LSAs to support pupils at school, there is still more that needs to be done,” Dalli said.

“I remained in contact with these parents and with the relevant government entities to try and help address certain issues.”

Marlene Mizzi said that because of various misconceptions people with autism are still highly underrepresented and face various barriers preventing them from exercising their rights to participate actively into our society. 

"As Members of the European Parliament, we have the unique opportunity to show our support, push for policies that would help change public attitude and support programmes for early diagnosis providing adequate support, education and early detection,” she said.

"It is initiatives like this that lay down the foundations for further discussion and help us make a difference and break taboos. Therefore, I hope that by being part of this Declaration, I will be able to encourage other people to become more involved and help people with autisms to get fully integrated  into society,  and to  live fuller and better lives. We need to show to people with autism what they can do, so they don't see the limits but see opportunities.”

The declaration was supported by 414 MEPs, more than half of the 751 Members of the European Parliament. It will now be sent to the European Commission and to the Council of the European Union for their position.

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