A National Strategy detailing all the measures and initiatives that the Government will be undertaking in the coming years with respect to increasing awareness on how individuals on the Autism Spectrum go about their lives, was launched earlier today on 30 March 2021.
This strategy is the first of its kind in Malta, and has been worked upon since 2018. It covers the period 2021-2030.
It was launched jointly by the Ministry for Inclusion and Social Wellbeing, together with the Autism Advisory Council, which UM alumnus, Dr Alistair de Gaetano, currently chairs.
Dr Claire Azzopardi Lane from the Department of Disability Studies within the Faculty for Social Wellbeing, Prof. Victor Martinelli from the Department of Education Studies within the Faculty of Education, as well Dr Christopher Sciberras from the Department of Paediatrics within the Faculty of Medicine & Surgery, are also members of the same Autism Advisory Council.
However, it is also the joint effort of many other entities, such as the Commission for the Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD), Aġenzija Sapport, medical professionals, educators, and members of the University of Malta community.
Whilst most of the work towards this strategy was conducted locally, with meetings behind held with people on the spectrum themselves and their families, a more international perspective was factored in, with the participation of the Council in discussions held at European Union and United Nations level.
Among other things, the Strategy aims to disseminate more correct information on what autism is, not just with those directly affected by Autism, but also with the general public, who would be less aware on this condition, in order to ultimately foster a more accepting and inclusive society.
The Strategy will also work towards the early identification and cataloguing of the services available to those on the Autism Spectrum, especially young children, and more importantly towards ensuring that access to these services is there.
Other than safeguarding the right for an education to individuals on the spectrum, they will also be assisted in their foray into the working world. Training will be given to teachers, and the working requirements of those with autism will be catered for.
Other priorities mentioned in the strategy include the need for advocacy and self-advocacy, meaning the importance of giving a voice to individuals on the spectrum, the increase of outreach, which implies the dissemination of this voice with as large as audience as possible, and the need to target decision-makers through updating relevant laws and policies where necessary.
In his introduction to the strategy, Dr de Gaetano said that through this strategy, he wants to achieve ‘drastic measures’, and while the reality on the ground “is much more complex” than it is in theory, he hopes for as many entities to join the AAC as possible, so “we can make real change together”.
The Strategy, which can be read in its entirety online in English and Maltese (with the Easy Read English version and the Easy Read Maltese version online as well), is currently open for consultation.