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Dawson Attends Global Autism Event at UN

Stigma among topics discussed; speaker to address at April 12 Duke event

Last week’s World Autism Awareness Day at the United Nations opened with a keynote address by Julia Bascom, Executive Director of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network--and a person on the autism spectrum. For Geraldine Dawson, PhD, Director of the Duke Autism and Brain Development Center, the address represents an excellent example of global advances around autism.

 Just 10 years ago, Dr. Dawson attended the White House event marking April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day. The United Nations subsequently approved the annual observance and hosts the international event.

Since then, while focusing on autism research, education, and outreach, Dr. Dawson has had, “the privilege of attending the United Nations annual World Autism Awareness event, which promotes autism awareness and acceptance and also provides an opportunity for leaders from around the world to come together to assess progress in developing awareness and services across the globe.” The theme for last week’s event was, “Empowering Women and Girls with Autism.”

Picture of Geraldine Dawson, left, with Saima Hossain

While there, she reconnected with Saima Wazed Hossain of Bangladesh, at left, whom Dawson described as a “globally renowned champion for the cause of autism spectrum disorder,” and who was appointed in April 2017 as a World Health Organization Goodwill Ambassador for Autism in the South-East Asia Region. Hossain was instrumental in drafting Bangladesh’s resolution calling on governments worldwide to improve education, healthcare, and services for persons with autism. It was adopted unanimously by the UN in 2012, opening the door for better lives for many around the world.

Reflecting on the 2018 UN event, Dr. Dawson noted four major topics addressed by speakers: empowerment of persons with autism to impact policies; the stigma of autism; under-diagnosis of girls with autism; and employment of persons on the autism spectrum disorder.

Persons on the Spectrum Lead the Way