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World Autism Day: We must make autism more readable and more visible

  • April 2, 2024
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Break down prejudices and give the French the keys to understanding whatautism : these are the challenges of the autism awareness campaign, launched this Tuesday, April 2, 2024 by the ministry responsible for the elderly and people with disabilities.

While there are 700,000 autistic people in France, it is clear that the general public is still unaware of this neurodevelopmental disorder. However, lack of knowledge fuels fears and contributes to alienating the people concerned and their families from society. “We want to lead society to evolve and better understand what autism is, hammered Fadila Khattabi, Minister in charge of Elderly and Disabled People during the press conference to present the campaign. We cannot exclude people with disabilities, they are part of society. It seems unbearable to me to see that we continue to have prejudices about disability and I hope that their outlook will change. The campaign must enable everyone to overcome postures of avoidance.”

“Autism is not the fault of Moms”

“No, autism is not the result of too long exposure to screens. No, autism is not caused by parents. No, autism does not have psychoanalytic origins, still supports Fadila Khattabi. Better understanding this disorder will allow us to collectively overcome these outdated postures which have a real and negative impact on the quality of life of more than 700,000 of our compatriots.”

Countryside built with autistic families and people offers three short spots to illustrate the difficulties that autistic people and their caregivers face, and in fine to help the general public understand them better. The tone is intended to be light, caring and educational at the same time: a first spot on hyper sensorialitya second on the deciphering of emotions and social codes and a third reaffirming that autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder without any educational or emotional cause.

“Autism is not the fault of Moms”thus underlines one of the spots, while even today the guilt of parents, and particularly mothers, remains a reality. “When we have a child with a disability or a neurodevelopmental disorder, we often have single mothers and in addition to the arrival of this child which is a shock, we tend to blame the mothers, exclaims Fadila Khattabi. But “it’s a neurodevelopmental disorder, the mother is in no way responsible”.

Hélène Grémillonscreenwriter co-wrote the campaign with Minh Tran Huy, journalist and author of a book about her autistic son A child without history. “We looked for how to combat caricatures without re-creating others because the subject is delicate. We thought about it and this phrase often came up in our discussions: there are as many forms of autism as there are autistic people and despite everything there are collective specificities, and this is what we will try to give to recognize so that autism appears more readable but also more visible”.

Each of the films is carried by both an autistic person and a personality: the comedians Paul Mirabel et Elie Semounthe actors Francis Perrin, his wife Gersende and their son Louis, and finally Paul El Kharat writer and columnist.

Autism and developmental disorders: spotting them earlier for better care

This campaign is part of the second national strategy for neurodevelopmental disorders, announced last fall by Emmanuel Macron. Also known by the abbreviation TND, they include troubles Dysintellectual development disorders, or even attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity. One in two people who have a neurodevelopmental disorder have another neurodevelopmental disorder.

But when the diagnosis is not made, there is a lot of medical wandering. “We see people diagnosed at the age of 40, with chaotic journeys, because the diagnosis was not made early. But we know that it must be put down as soon as possible. This is why we are implementing early identification, to improve support,” further underlined the Minister of Disability.

One of the government’s priorities is therefore to advance the time of diagnosis. General practitioners now have a reference booklet with clear checklists to help with identification of development gaps and then direct towards coordination platforms. A news version of “Guide to spotting unusual developmental signs in children under 7 years old”, will be entered in the health record in spring 2024. A very short training plan is also planned for all professionals (AES, caregivers, doctors, educators, professionals from the police, Justice, ‘National Education…).

The Autism House and 27 autism resource centers (CRA) sign this campaign in order to be better identified. They inform, guide, raise awareness among autistic people and their families and train throughout the territory both the people concerned and all types of professionals.

If it is particularly important to act as soon as possible, it is because children’s brains are capable of evolvingadapt and reorganize more effectively in the first three years: “early interventions can improve the developmental trajectory of children with neurodevelopmental disorders”, explained Etienne Pot, Interministerial Delegate for the national strategy for neurodevelopmental disorders and public health doctor during the presentation of the campaign. And he adds: We can progress all the time. There is nothing more terrible than thinking that a child who is non-verbal at 7 years old will remain non-verbal. There are children who will manage to acquire speech, even later, or other means of communication. This does not mean that all children will progress in the same way, but disability is not fixed.”

Source: autism awareness campaign, Ministry of Elderly and Disabled People, April 2024.

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Anne Xaille