On May 5-7, 2023, the annual meeting of “Autism Europe” member countries took place as part of the pan-European awareness campaign “Building an inclusive society for autistic people”. Traditionally, Ukraine took part in this major European event in the person of Autism Europe’s Consul in Ukraine Inna Sergienko, who delivered a presentation on “Autism and the War in Ukraine.”
The main task of the meeting of the European community member states was to present the latest projects aimed at improving the lives of people with special needs in all spheres of life: educational, upbringing, domestic, medical, psychological, etc.
Among the projects successfully implemented by European organizations are projects to train mediators to improve the social interaction of people with autism (YMI), training modules within the international program Autism Friendly Spaces, Autism on the Line to train first responders to work with autistic people (ALLERT), Health Education for Young people with disabilities (HEDY), and other unique projects aimed at improving the practical application of knowledge about the disorder.
Despite the crucial importance of the developed activities, the introduction of the latest knowledge and the best intentions in projects to improve the lives of autistic people, a significant part of the meeting was devoted to Ukraine and Ukrainians who are suffering from the treacherous war and now need the most support and assistance.
Inna Sergienko, the founder of the “Child with Future” Foundation and the “Autism Europe” consul, presented “Autism and the War in Ukraine”, in which she spoke about the tireless activities of Ukrainian autism NGOs in the extremely difficult wartime and the problems faced by families of children with autism in Ukraine and abroad. In particular, “Child with Future”, in collaboration with Ukrainian and foreign NGOs, organized an information support network in the first days of the war in Ukraine and abroad, helped centers and families displaced from the occupied regions, provided a large number of consultations and support through online resources, resumed educational and sports services for children and adolescents with ASD in Kyiv in May 2022, conducted free information projects for parents and professionals, charity auctions of paintings by autistic authors, launched a fundraiser to support these projects, etc.
“Unfortunately, a huge number of wonderful experts had to leave Ukraine to save their lives and the lives of their families. This has had an extremely difficult impact on those who have regularly used their services, because we understand that even minor interruptions in work can lead to regression and loss of skills acquired by autistic people. Also, a significant number of children with ASD were evacuated by their families for safety reasons, which led to the loss of usual services and opportunities to receive the necessary support. What can we say about the reaction of children with special needs to separated families or news of the loss of relatives,” Inna Sergienko said.
In her speech, the Consul of “Autism Europe” relied on the data of a new survey conducted by the NGO “Child with Future”. In the coming days, the results of the survey “The Year of the War. Experience of Ukrainians with Autism Abroad” will be published in the coming days.
Inna Sergienko also received an invitation to become a member of the organizing committee of the next “Autism Europe” conference. The organization is currently actively involved in the EU’s policy on the employment of people with disabilities, providing recommendations and comments on regulations and the formation of common rules. Although the implementation of the above will require significant efforts at the country level, this issue of hard work in the coming years is extremely important for Ukraine as a future EU member.
“Child with Future» Foundation is confident that with the joint efforts of many Ukrainian and international NGOs, public and private institutions, we will be able to successfully resolve this and many other issues that are on the agenda now and will be facing all of us after Ukraine’s victory.