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United Nations Side Event Looks at National Autism Strategies Through the Lens of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Putting Autistic rights at the forefront of a global stage for policy development

Autism Alliance of Canada organized a Side Event at the United Nations’ 16th session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (COSP16) at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, on June 15, 2023. 

The morning event, co-sponsored by and in partnership with Kids Brain Health Network (KBHN), was entitled: “Challenges, Best-Practices, and a Way Forward: Looking at National Autism Strategies through the lens of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.” Admission to the Church Center for the United Nations venue was free. Remarks were delivered in English, with real-time captioning (CART) and ASL and ISL interpretation. 

This event aimed to create an inclusive platform for exploring the challenges and successes of the State Parties in developing and implementing rights-based autism policies, a discussion that has yet to take place on the global stage. The event brought together a diverse panel of global experts, including Autistic persons, policy makers, researchers, and practitioners, to discuss promising practices and experiences and share learnings to help build a more equitable and inclusive world for Autistic people.

Presenters included: 

  • Dr. Jonathan Lai, Executive Director of Autism Alliance of Canada
  • Dr. Deepa Singal, Scientific Director of Autism Alliance of Canada
  • Dr. Jennifer Zwicker, Director of Health Policy at the School of Public Policy, University of Calgary, Canada Research Chair in Disability Policy for Children and Youth, Deputy Scientific Officer for KBHN
  • Dr. Susan Daniels, National Autism Coordinator, U.S. National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Dr. Alistair de Gaetano, Administrator of the Maltese Government’s Directorate for Disability Issues (DDI), and Chairperson of the Autism Advisory Council, Government of Malta
  • Harald Neerland, President of Autism Europe
  • Yvonne Spicer, Autistic self-advocate, ambassador of Autism Canada, Autism Alliance of Canada Member
  • Sarah Ewart, Labour and Employment Lawyer at Forte Workplace Law, Autism Alliance of Canada Member
  • 2022 Autism Alliance of Canada-KBHN Policy Development Practicum Fellows:
    • Christiane Roth, Research Associate at the University of Calgary – School of Public Policy
    • Alexandra Minuk, Doctoral Student, at Queen’s University – Faculty of Education
    • Dr. Preeti Kar, Medical student at the University of Calgary.

Autism Alliance of Canada is proud to have convened national and international thought leaders and to advocate for the rights of Autistic people on the global stage. As Canada develops a National Autism Strategy, it is critical that we learn from promising practices in autism policies from around the globe. We are excited to position Canada as a leader in knowledge sharing and advocacy, and to demonstrate progress that is underpinned by evidence and learnings from real-world practical policy initiatives in other nations.

This COSP16 Side Event is part of Autism Alliance of Canada’s Autism Knowledge Synthesis Initiative, in partnership with the Strategy for Patient Oriented Research (SPOR) Evidence Alliance. The Autism Knowledge Synthesis Initiative informs autism policy and practice in Canada and beyond. 

Thank you to everyone who attended. Stay tuned for the release of the event recording.