Promoting Empowerment and Rights of Persons with Autism through Mapping Project in ASEAN

30 March 2021

By Asia-Pacific Development Center on Disability (APCD)

ASEAN is always looking for ways to protect the rights and promote empowerment of persons with autism. It is estimated that around 6 million persons with autism live in the ASEAN region1, which is home to more than 625 million people. However, these efforts are being held back by a lack of relevant and reliable data on the prevalence of autism in the region. Quality and timely data are the foundation of the implementation of disability-inclusive policies and programmes in line with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Recognizing this problem, ASEAN conducted autism mapping project to map persons with autism and develop country profiles on autism. Spearheaded by the ASEAN Secretariat, the project aimed at promoting and protecting the rights of persons with autism, as well as advancing empowerment for persons with autism in the region. Taken into consideration the disability-inclusive perspective in ASEAN, the project engaged different stakeholders and beneficiaries in its implementation. More than 24,000 participants involved in the consultation meetings, workshops and the commemoration of the World Autism Awareness Day conducted at the national and regional levels.

Here are four stories from the members of the ASEAN Autism Network in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam that directly benefited from the initiative. The stories demonstrate how data collection and standardization will not only facilitate cooperation between organisations responsible for autism, but also help develop policy recommendations.

Cambodia Autism Network

ASEAN Autism Mapping National Policy Workshop and World Autism Awareness Day were conducted back-to-back on
1-2 April 2019 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

© Asia-Pacific Development Center on Disability (APCD)

Cambodia Autism Network participated in the development of country profile and policy recommendations. The activities involved approximately 500 stakeholders including the Ministry of Social Welfare, Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, Council of Disability, NGOs and representatives from five main provinces in Cambodia. Country policy recommendations on autism were delivered as planned and it is hoped that the issues of persons with autism will be highlighted in the National Disability Policy.

World Autism Awareness Day was also observed to enhance awareness among the public and the families.

“The project has created awareness among government agencies and private sectors. Through this project, it has created better understanding and coordination among governments and NGOs,” says Sarin Chan, President of Cambodia Autism Network.

Association for Autism, Lao PDR

Participants from various sectors including government, civil society, and disabled people’s organization participated in the workshop for autism mapping and policy recommendation on 19 March 2019 in Vientiane, Lao PDR.

© Asia-Pacific Development Center on Disability (APCD)

Association for Autism was involved in the mapping of country profile and the development of policy recommendations together with Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Department Hospital with Assessment Service and Rehabilitation Center. The workshop produced country policy recommendations as one of the outputs.

World Autism Awareness Days took place in Vientiane to raise awareness about persons with autism. The event has created the awareness among stakeholders and received donations from the local industries. Viengsam Indavong, Managing Director of Association of Autism reflects back that “the project is not only relevant to the persons with autism but also benefits their family members and guardians. This project was considered as the first step for all stakeholders in Laos PDR to address the issues on persons with autism.”

Autistic Thai Foundation

Autistic Thai Foundation together with representatives from government and disabled people’s organisations participated in the national workshop held on 16 March 2019 in Bangkok, Thailand.

© Asia-Pacific Development Center on Disability (APCD)

Thai Autistic Association was involved in the workshop for country autism profile and country policy recommendations on autism. This project is relevant to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and in line with the United Nations meeting in 2018 about issues on persons with autism. The workshop was attended by approximately 600 people and a set of policy recommendations was accomplished. If the policy recommendations would be adopted at the national level, it will give impact to parents of persons with autism, persons with autism, community, and government on how they manage matters on autism.

“The project has created a platform where the government can be alerted to the issue of persons with autism at the national level. It can also create a better understanding among the Thai Autistic Association, stakeholders and government,” says Dr. Samreng Virachanang, First Vice President on International Relations, The Association of Parents of Thai Persons with Autism.

Vietnam Autism Association

Visit to partner school for autism to understand the learning curve of children with autism on
16-20 February 2019, Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam

© Asia-Pacific Development Center on Disability (APCD)

Vietnam Autism Network is heavily involved in the development of country autism profile and policy recommendations. More than 100 participants were involved in the policy recommendation workshop including representatives from the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education & Training, Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, parents, teachers, and medical doctors. The workshop addressed the current needs of persons with autism in Viet Nam. Autism Policy Recommendation is successfully concluded according to plan.

Pham Thi Kim Tam, Chairperson of Vietnam Autism Network shares that “the project is significant for persons with Autism in Viet Nam as it gives direct benefits to persons with autism and their parents. The Project also enhances cooperation and understanding among Vietnam Autism Network, government, and other stakeholders.”

These activities were part of the “Autism Mapping Project in the ASEAN Region” supported by the Government of Japan through Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund (JAIF). Country profile on autism from ten ASEAN Member States were compiled into Autism at A Glance in ASEAN. Policy recommendations were tabled at the regional workshop attended by the representatives of Senior Officials Meeting on Social Welfare and Development (SOMSWD), ASEAN Secretariat, as well as the government and ASEAN Autism Network members. Other significant outputs of the project included the conduct of the 4th ASEAN Autism Network Congress: ASEAN Autism Games 2018 held on 20-21 October 2018 in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The project, with a duration of two years (2018 – 2020), was implemented by the Asia-Pacific Development Center on Disability (APCD). Read more on the findings from other ASEAN Member States here.

1 The figure is lifted from the preface written by Dr. Tej Bunnag, President of APCD in Autism at A Glance in ASEAN.