Home > Awareness > Fourth Annual World Focus on Autism

Fourth Annual World Focus on Autism

(Back, L to R) Mr. Hassan Ali Bin Ali – Qatar, Mrs. Emine Erdoğan – Turkey, Mme. Raymonde Goudou Coffie – Côte d’Ivoire, Mrs. Valeria Toribiong – Palau, Dr. Pentti Arajärvi – Finland, Mrs. Barbara Miklič Türk – Slovenia, Mrs. Sandra Thomas – Grenada, Dr. Liri Berisha – Albania, Mrs. Natalia Gryshchenko – Ukraine, Mrs. Eloise Gonsalves – Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Prof. Saima Wazed Hossain – Bangladesh, Dr. Cecelia McCarton – The McCarton School, Mme. Ilham Hussain – Maldives, Mrs. Elsie Christofia – Cyprus, Mrs. Rosella Nestor King – Saint Lucia, Ms. Sue Herera – CNBC (Front, L to R) Mrs. Penehuipifo Pohama – Namibia, Mrs. Sarah Wescot-Williams – Saint Martin, Mrs. Shiranthi Rajapaksa – Sri Lanka, Mrs. Ban Soo-taek – Wife of the Secretary General of the UN, Mrs. Suzanne Wright – Autism Speaks, Mrs. Lorna Golding – Jamaica, Dr. Patience Faka Jonathan – Nigeria, Mrs. Hannah Jurelang Zedkaia – Marshall Islands, Mrs. Ingrid Bouterese – Suriname

For the fourth year in a row Autism Speaks brought together first spouses and esteemed dignitaries, including ministers of health, from more than 30 countries around the globe for the Fourth Annual World Focus on Autism. The event, held on Tuesday, September 20, 2011, was part of an ongoing effort to raise global awareness and share best practices for countries, communities and families struggling with this non-discriminative disorder.

Mrs. Ban Soon-taek, wife of the U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, in her fourth year of attendance joined event hosts Suzanne and Bob Wright of Autism Speaks. Additional distinguished guests included event Co-host Dr. Cecelia McCarton, executive director and founder of The McCarton Foundation and the McCarton School, and emcee Sue Herera of CNBC’s “Power Lunch.”

Attendees convened at The McCarton School, which provides an educational program for children with autism by using an integrated one-to-one model of therapy grounded in Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) combined with speech and language therapy, motor skills training and peer interaction. “This school has given so much to our children with autism, and we wanted each of you to experience it firsthand today,” said Suzanne Wright. “It’s here under this roof that the meticulous work to connect with our children with autism takes place.”

United in a global cause, a record number of dignitaries attended, including the first spouses of Albania, the Republic of Cyprus, Finland, Grenada, Jamaica, the Republic of the Maldives, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Namibia, Nigeria, the Republic of Palau, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Slovenia, Sri Lanka, and Turkey.

Guests toured the school and met with students, who made glass bead necklaces for the visiting first spouses. Later, the dignitaries assembled to learn about Autism Speaks’ global initiatives – including the annual World Autism Awareness Day celebrated on April 2 and Autism Speaks’ Light it Up Blue campaign; as well as Autism Speaks’ Global Autism Public Health (GAPH) initiative. GAPH initiatives championed by individual countries, as well as regional efforts including the South-East European Autism Network (SEAN) and the South Asian Autism Network (SAAN) were highlighted during the event.

In her opening remarks, Mrs. Ban Soon-taek welcomed the international group on behalf of her husband U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stating, “autism touches so many in the world, no matter where they live, no matter how much money they have, no matter their religion, no matter their gender. And like a pebble in a pond, the effects of autism ripple outward to parents, siblings, and caregivers. Autism is at once deeply personal and truly global.”

Speakers at the event included distinguished guests Dr. Liri Berisha, spouse of the Prime Minister of Albania; Dr. Ante Zvonimir Golem, Croatia’s State Secretary for Health and Social Welfare; Professor Saima Wazed Hossain, daughter of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh; and Professor A.F.M. Ruhal Haque, MP, F.R.C.S, Bangladesh’s Minister of Health and Family Welfare; as well as Autism Speaks Vice President of Scientific Affairs Dr. Andy Shih. Each speaker offered remarks on the significance of fostering global partnerships in combating the global public health crisis of autism.

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‘World’s First Ladies Take on Autism’ in the The Wall Street Journal.

  1. Adam Vogel
    September 22, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Let you know I attended a summit called, “Autism Spectrum Disorder and Transition“. Considering the fact that I have been searching for a job for almost 2 years, it was sobering to hear that only only 6% of individuals with autism, and only 12% of individuals with Asperger’s or high functioning autism will have full time employment. I believe that it should be at the forefront for Autism Speaks and any businesses or non-for-profits, who work in conjunction with Autism Speaks, to provide job opportunities for those adults who are living with autism, such as, myself. As a person who follows the business news, I find it very troubling it is going on with the global markets. Hopefully, my accounting degree will pay off dividends very shortly.

  2. Katie Wright
    September 23, 2011 at 11:48 am

    This was such a great event! So many women/ mothers discussed the challenge of battling harmful, faulty beliefs that mothers cause autism or that it is a hopeless, untreatable condition. It was especially wonderful to see so many women from countries short on financial resources for health care eager to do something, anything to help families w/ ASD children.

    It is only a shame that our UN representative was not as active participant in the day’s events, he arrived late and left early.

    Let’s hope the representatives of the NIH and CDC can find the time in their busy schedules to attend this event next year.

  1. September 24, 2011 at 5:02 am
  2. October 4, 2011 at 7:29 pm

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