The Global Autism Convention

By Trish Grant, Inclusion International’s Regional Representative for Asia Pacific and Director of Advocacy at IHC

At the request of Parivaar, an Inclusion International member, David Corner and I participated in the Global Autism Convention held at St John’s Hospital Auditorium in Bangalore India 10-12 December 2018. The invitation was made to Connie Laurin- Bowie who requested we attend as Asia Pacific representatives of the organisation. Funding our travel and participation provided an opportunity to profile Inclusion International’s priorities particularly inclusive schools and communities in an agenda which had a strong emphasis on medical model responses to people with autism and intellectual disability.

David and I presented on the first afternoon of the conference.

We had an hour and a half to outline the history, vision and current work programme of Inclusion International. We described in detail priority initiatives, the Calls to Action and the Empower Us and Catalyst for Inclusive Education initiatives.

We described also the benefits of membership and value of global collaboration in increasing the recognition and response to the human rights and inclusion of people with intellectual disability and families. Inclusion International’s strengths in mobilising families and self-advocates was highlighted as was the role played at the United Nations and other international forums to advocate for the rights, needs and interests of people with intellectual disability and their families.

David described the Empower Us initiative and the organisation’s sustained commitment to self-advocacy. He talked about the opportunities for growth he has enjoyed as a person with intellectual disability and autism to speak up for others in New Zealand and around the world.

The presentation was well received with a great range of questions and comments at the end. People were very interested in David’s role and the support he receives to contribute at the local and global level.

The discussion on inclusive education was interesting also as despite 65% of disabled children who attend school in India being in special schools there was good agreement and discussion on the link between inclusive education and inclusive communities.

I was asked to facilitate some other conference sessions and was delighted to do so.

As always the value and benefit of attending conferences lay in the relationships formed and or developed. Dr Gadkari, ex-president of Parivaar and the Chair of the Convention organising committee was particularly effusive in his welcome of us as were other Parivaar members. The Convention organising committee proved to be fantastic hosts.

Parivaar seem very keen to strengthen their relationship with Inclusion and we had several conversations about the possibilities of partnerships to develop self-advocacy and supported decision making initiatives.  Parivaar is keen to explore new opportunities in mobilising families to advocate for increased government support. I discussed also the work we had completed in Nepal to support PFFID in advocating for inclusive education and asked Parivaar to consider what might be useful for them

Despite the 2016 enactment of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act which includes people with intellectual disability and autism implementation is slow with many states in India not having developed policy for implementation.

The conference programme was intended to provide a platform for researchers, educators and professionals and family members to present and discuss latest teaching methodologies, interventions, employment and family support systems. Although there were some international speakers there was a strong focus on developing better clinical and assessment/diagnostic and early intervention approaches across India.

Some strong themes and calls emerged over the three day conference around the need for greater parent lead approaches, mobilised family and self-advocacy networks and the importance of supported decision making.

The Global Autism Convention was an impressive event attended by about 400 people many of whom were professionals but there was great representation from families who provided some strong challenges during presentations by medical professionals and researchers.

The highlights of the Convention for me were the discussions and connections with families and the positive and energised conversations with Parivaar members and office holders.