The annual meeting of Autism Europe 2021 was held in Brussels

On 16-17 October in Brussels the annual meeting of the ‘Autism Europe’ NGO – Europe’s main non-governmental organization dealing with autism, which unites almost all the countries of the continent, not just the EU, was held. Ukraine was represented at the event by Inna Sergiyenko, board member of this organization since 2012, Consul “Autism Europe” and founder of the Ukrainian INGO “Child with Future”. 

The main agenda of the meeting was:

  • discussion of work plan activity for 2021;
  • presentations on autism services;
  • an online roundtable initiative for the exchange of practices and experiences of Autism-Europe members;
  • presentation of the draft EU Disability Card;
  • work plan for 2022-2025.

In connection with COVID-19 the board meetings, as last year, were again held in an online format, and more than 40 representatives from all European countries took part.

Some of the main issues discussed at the AE meeting were the impact of COVID-19 on autistic people across Europe and discussion of the organization’s future strategy to 2025, improving communication and coordination.

Next is a direct speech by Inna Sergienko, a board member of ‘Autism Europe’:

“All the participants of the meeting without exception showed that the pandemic has a significant and, unfortunately, negative impact on the conditions of development and life directly for autistic people. And the lower the functional category of autistic people, the greater the volume of problems they face. This is now a major challenge for ‘Autism Europe’ and each of its member countries, and the main task of the AO in this context is to actively encourage governments and the public to pay special attention to these issues.

The Board Meeting of ‘Autism Europe’ has decided to continue its work with the aim of coordinating actions and developing effective proposals to minimize the negative impact of the above-mentioned factors. That is why the official decision of the AE-2021 annual board meeting will be announced a little later – it is now in active preparation.

To improve coordination and deepen cooperation several initiatives have been proposed. In particular, at the initiative of Latvia and using the positive experience of the “Autism-Friendly Ukraine” project in Ukraine, members of AE decided, starting from October 2021, to hold extended online meetings every two months to address specific issues of people-organizations-communities, their solutions, the possibility of applying the positive experience of other countries at home, etc.

It is important that, as a platform for discussion and analysis of these cases, AE will not be limited to the stories of its members – any situation from all structures working in the field of autism in Europe and, of course, in Ukraine can be considered. The task of AE members (in Ukraine, this is the IGO “Child with Future”) is to provide other organizations with the necessary coordination and preparatory assistance to bring such issues to the AE for consideration.

One of the biggest challenges for the whole of Europe is the issue of employment for autistic adults and the acute shortage of specialists in autism and autism-related fields. These issues are already on the agenda of united Europe and AE is hoping for the active participation of national governments in their decision because the problem is really acute and to solve it quickly and locally – is unreal. Obviously, we are talking here about active coordination and cooperation between different levels of power with the broad involvement of specialized organizations across the continent in the coming years.

We agreed with our colleagues that many, many problems that different countries have faced over the past two years are the same for all. Although there are differences between us, not all of them, by the way, are in favor of the developed European countries. Of course, their social base is traditionally stronger compared to Ukraine, but it is already clear that, for example, the model of inclusion and socialization that is being implemented in Ukraine today, despite many censures, is more progressive than in many European countries.

Unfortunately, many documents and initiatives are currently still under active preparation and I would not like to talk about them, but in the near future we will tell you about them, because all of them, one way or another, are important and useful for Ukraine.”