Recommendations for Policy-makers_English

Improving quality of life of people on the autism spectrum and their families through parent education

THE NEED FOR SUPPORT ACROSS EUROPE

It is estimated that 1% of the population is on the autism spectrum (around 7.5 million people in Europe)1. If you include their families, autism touches the lives of over 30 million Europeans.

Autism affects the way a person communicates, understands and relates to others. Autistic people often have difficulty using and understanding verbal and non-verbal language. This makes it difficult to understand others and interact with them which hinders their inclusion in society. Autistic people form a very diverse group with a variety of needs. People on the autism spectrum and their families face discrimination in many areas of life.

Autism is a complex lifelong developmental condition that challenges traditional parenting styles. It often has a profound impact on the whole family due to the level of stress it may cause, as well as the emotional and economic pressures of caring for children requiring a high level of support. Some parents can feel deskilled and disempowered, especially if little information or support is available to them. It can lead to strong feelings of helplessness, with families ultimately resorting to putting their children in institutions.

Getting the right support and therapies as early as possible makes a substantial difference to autistic people and their outcomes in life. However, in many countries, access to early evidence-based therapy is still lacking and parents have a very important role to play in supporting their children to gain a better social understanding and develop to the full of their potential.