According to Secretary-General of the ASEAN Lim Jock Hoi, this is the first time when a regional organization contributes to the mapping of autism, which will offer data to create an autism-friendly environment for the affected people.
Proposed by the ASEAN secretariat, through the ASEAN Socio-cultural Community and funded by the Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund, the program is currently being implemented by the Asia-Pacific Development Center on Disability (APCD) in partnership with the ASEAN Secretariat, ASEAN Autism Network (AAN), and other key partners.
In this two-year project, an earlier workshop on the mapping methodology was already held in July this year. It is estimated that Autism Awareness Day will be held annually, and an ASEAN profile on autism named "Autism at a Glance in ASEAN" will be published eventually in 2020.
"Our project will not only offer an autism map but will also increase society`s understanding of autism. Those vulnerable are not left behind," Hoi noted in his welcome remarks, adding that the plan reaffirms ASEAN`s long-standing commitment to help people with disability.
Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for Socio-Cultural Community Vongthep Arthakaivalvatee noted that the profile aims at influencing policymakers to make autism-friendly laws and reforms, taking ASEAN`s current effort to another level.
"Our regional initiative now can do more than advocacy, realizing the goal of leaving no one behind," Arthakaivalvatee emphasized.
The 10 ASEAN member states targeted by the program are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. The respective AAN member organizations in these countries play the key role in collecting the mapping data.
It is estimated that 1 in 160 children has autism spectrum disorder worldwide, based on a statistical update from the World Health Organization in 2017. The ASEAN suggests that some six million people out of the 625 million population of the southeast Asian organization are affected by autism.
Reporting by Chi Jo-yao
Editing by Andi Abdussalam