Israeli President Reuven Rivlin hosted an event on Sunday for the first time to mark World Autism Awareness Day, which falls each year on April 2. Participating in the program in Jerusalem were Deputy Health Minister and Knesset member Yaakov Litzman, children and adults on the autism spectrum, and representatives of various NGOs.
The president began by saying, “according to estimates, 25,000 Israelis are on what we now know to refer to as the autism spectrum. That means that every one of us knows someone—an adult or a child—who deals with autism. There is also a steady increase in those diagnosed each year. This rise requires the State of Israel and our society to promote treatment and support for those with autism and their families, from birth until old age.”
During the event, 11-year old Roi Mor, who was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum at the age of a year-and-a-half, performed an original composition called “Harmony,” which he composed at age 10. There was also an exhibition of works by artists on the autism spectrum from three different shows: “A Bridge to the World” at ALUT, the Israeli Society for Children and Adults with Autism in Jerusalem; “Out of the Bubble—Autism: Not What You Thought” by Tali Kagan; and “In My Own Way” by the artist Nevo Afek.
“The integration of children and adults with autism in society is a task of the highest priority, which every one of us can and must engage with,” said Rivlin. “We need to go beyond what is familiar, and to try and meet these dear people who are hidden under the name ‘autism.’ To want to do a little more for them, and certainly not to use that name as a term of abuse.”
He said “in Israel, treatment of children and adults with autism and their families is a partnership between government ministries and NGOs. Working together, they continue to make progress.”
Litzman said “World Autism Awareness Day is an expression of our commitment as a society to work for equality for those with autism and to relate to them in an appropriate and efficient way. I thank the president for his support for this important endeavor. Together, we will work for the welfare of those with autism in every way.”
Lihi Lapid, mother of a child on the autistic spectrum, and an activist for children and adults with autism, said at the event that “in a world where many people do not listen and many people shout, there are those who fight to listen and those who fight to be heard even when they have no voice. I am here, trying to explain in words, which are what my daughter does not have, what it means to be autistic.”
ALUT CEO Yoav Hefer said “from here, we call for the acceptance of the other, whoever they may be, for understanding and inclusion of people on the autistic spectrum, and putting the treatment of autism on the national agenda. After many years in which ALUT has worked for treatment of people with autism in Israel and despite the many successes, there is still much work to be done.”