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25-09-2018 17:50

Address by the First Lady of the Republic of Cyprus, Andri Anastasiades, at the 10th Annual World Focus on Autism, in New York

It is a great pleasure and a privilege to address such a distinguished audience at the 10th Annual World Focus on Autism organised by the “Autism Speaks” organisation.

I wish at the outset to extend my sincere respect and appreciation to the President and the Board of Directors of the organisation for successfully promoting solutions for the needs of individuals with autism and their families, empowering and supporting them for the past 13 years.

Every person, every child, deserves the opportunity to fulfil their true potential, to realise their aspirations and be treated with the highest level of dignity and respect.

People with autism have enormous potential, unique strengths and challenges. They deserve equal opportunities on education, employment and social integration, and should enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Our mission and obligation, ladies and gentlemen, is to make this happen. To make sure that our society accepts every person for who they are -regardless of any skills, or background- and for all to be free of any form of discrimination and social exclusion.

We all need to ensure equal educational opportunities for autistic students, providing a better learning environment and specialised teaching programmes.

In Cyprus, we work hard and do our utmost to promote the rights of autistic people and to help them integrate without any problems or social barriers into our society. We do this by raising public awareness about the everyday issues and challenges they have to face, advocating for better services, education and treatment.

Our Government is committed to improving the support provided to autistic people through the advancement of research into the causes of autism.

As our economy regained its growth momentum, we also focus on more funding to be invested in services for the benefit of persons with autism.

With this in mind, our Government in February approved the development of a diagnosis programme regarding autistic spectrum disorders and the operation of a Centre for children with related conditions, demonstrating our determination in addressing the unique needs of people with autism. The goal of this significant decision is to provide early stage diagnosis, as well as adopting better practices.

But even the Governments, in every country, still need the support provided by important and recognised organisations, like “Autism Speaks”, which successfully developed into one of the world’s leading organisations dedicated to autism.

In this regard, on October 2016, following my invitation, the Director of “Autism Speaks” Mr. Michael Rosanoff and the Assistant Director Mrs. Lucia Murillo visited Cyprus for the purpose of exchanging views and best practices on autism with all competent authorities and actors on the island, as well as providing invaluable knowledge and expertise during their lectures that took place at the Presidential Palace.  

And as we move forward, we do encourage more people and organisations to get more involved in working closely with us for the well-being of people with autism. For greater awareness and understanding.

I avail myself of this opportunity to congratulate once again your organisation for the hard work with the aim to improve the lives of autistic people. Thank you for inspiring them and for offering them the resources they really need.

Together, we stand up for the rights of people with autism and the opportunities they truly deserve. Together, we speak out against discrimination. We embark on the challenge of fulfilling our mission for equal participation and active involvement of persons with autism, and help realise our shared vision of a more inclusive, accepting and supportive world. A world we all strive to build with care and commitment.

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RM/MKY/SCH