Inclusive and equitable education for people with autism

World Autism Awareness Day is commemorated on April 2, with the aim of contributing to improve the quality of life of people with this condition and promoting their inclusion in all areas of society.


What is autism and what are its characteristics?


Autism is a permanent neurological condition that manifests in early childhood, regardless of gender or social and economic status. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) refers to a number of particularities. An appropriate environment, coupled with support and acceptance of this neurological variation allows those with autism to enjoy equal opportunities and participate fully and effectively in society.


Autism is mainly characterized by its unique social interactions, non-standard ways of learning, keen interests in specific subjects, inclination to routines, challenges in typical communications and particular ways of processing sensory information.


The rate of autism in all regions of the world is high and the lack of understanding has a tremendous impact on the individuals, their families and communities.


The stigmatization and discrimination associated with neurological differences remain substantial obstacles to diagnosis and therapies.


The effect of the pandemic on the education of people with autism


Over the past decade, major progress has been made towards increasing access to education generally, as well as for persons with autism specifically.


However, in 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe, a majority of countries announced the temporary closure of schools, impacting more than 90 per cent of students worldwide. The disruption in learning caused by the pandemic has reversed years of progress and has exacerbated inequalities in education.


Many students with autism have been especially hard hit and studies show that they have been disproportionately affected by disruptions to routines, as well as services and supports that they rely on.


Inclusive and equitable quality education


Among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted by world leaders at the United Nations in 2015, number 4 (SDG 4) stands out, which focuses on ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all, as a basis for improving people’s lives and reducing inequalities.


The specific targets for SDG 4 refer to the need to ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for persons with disabilities and building and upgrading education facilities that are disability sensitive and that provide inclusive and effective learning environments for all.


In this respect, the SDGs echo the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Article 24 of the Convention recognizes that persons with disabilities have the right to inclusive, quality education on an equal basis with others and that reasonable accommodation of the individual’s requirements should be provided.


“A happy journey through life”


This year’s celebration of World Autism Awareness Day has as its campaign slogan: “A happy journey through life”. This is intended to raise awareness about the right of all people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families to enjoy a happy life.


Currently, people with this condition are discriminated against, often due to misinformation. Therefore, it is necessary to eliminate prejudices about this condition, as well as to raise awareness of the needs of people with ASD and their participation in society to live on equal terms with the rest of the citizenship.


By: Juan Carlos Ugarelli

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