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Countries in the World Health Organisation's South East Asian Region including India today pledged to integrate needs of people suffering with autism into their national health and socio-economic development plans.
Accelerating efforts to enable people with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders to lead a productive life, countries in WHO South-East Asia Region today adopted the 'Thimphu Declaration'.
The Declaration, adopted at the end of the three-day international conference on Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, emphasizes the need for a whole-of-society and whole-of-government approach to these issues.
It emphasises on giving specific attention to strengthening national capacities in the health, education and social care sectors to provide effective services and support to people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs).
The Declaration called for countries in the Region to share experiences and best practices.
"Inter-country cooperation and partnerships are fundamental to addressing autism in the Region. Member countries are already demonstrating how progress can be forged, providing valuable learning opportunities that must be embraced and adapted to country needs," said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia.
Government at all levels - national, state and local - should work with civil society, including academia, professionals and non-government organizations, as well as the private sector and media to effectively address autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders, the Declaration said.
The Thimphu Declaration stressed the need to promote social inclusiveness and remove stigma, which are major challenges that individuals and their families face.
"Barriers affecting persons with ASD must be identified and removed, and legal frameworks supporting the rights of persons with ASD, their families and caregivers must be developed.
"As part of this, involvement of persons affected by ASD and NDDs is vitally important, as is a commitment to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as well as previous Regional resolutions and declarations," the Regional Director said in her address to the conference.
Autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders are life- long disabilities that affect brain functioning, and when left without proper support can cause significant impairment in exercising of an individual's human rights and fundamental freedoms, the WHO said.