As the father of a 13 year old boy with autistic disorder, assessed with profound developmental delays I thank both Qatar and Autism Speaks for this monumental step forward in facing the challenges of autism spectrum disorders around the globe.
The mainstream media CBC, CNN, New Yorker Magazine for example tend to interview and present persons with Asperger's Disorder and higher functioning autistic disorder to the world as being representative of persons with autism. Very, very few features about autism focus on the invisible persons with severe forms of autism, the forgotten ones who live as adults in institutional care or very controlled community group homes. [The exception to this rule is the Vancouver Sun which provided the most comprehensive presentation of persons with autism from all points of the autism spectrum with its excellent Faces of Autism series. The Vancouver Sun, Pete McMartin, columnist, and Glenn Baglo, photographer, deserve full credit for daring to portray realities of life for persons from across the full spectrum of autism disorders and their families.]
The invisible autistic persons live in institutional settings because of the severity of their autism disorders. Some are violent towards themselves or others. Some lack the skills to function at all in the world without assistance. Simply closing such places is not an answer even if it makes the public feel better. For many, without institutional care they would have no where to live, no means of survival. For me such severely autistic persons are not invisible or forgotten. Unlike some of the dilettante, mainstream health "journalists" I have visited institutional facilities providing lifelong residential care and treatment to severely autistic persons. My son could well end up residing in such a facility after I am dead.
On World Autism Awareness Day I will think of all persons with autism disorders including my friends with Asperger's Disorder. And I will think of and remember the invisible and largely forgotten persons with severe autistic disorder. I will not ignore or forget them. I respectfully ask you to do the same.
It is my hope that World Autism Awareness Day continues in perpetuity and that long after I am dead people will be thinking of all persons with autism disorders, including the severely autistic, including my son, Conor Doherty.
Thank you for considering my request.