Church leaders urged to speak up on autism

Autism Sunday, and the International Day of Prayer for Autism and Asperger's Syndrome falls on 10 February, when churches of all denominations will be remembering 60 million people with autism around the world, and more than 500,000 people with autism in the UK.

Ivan Corea, head of the Autism Awareness Campaign UK, who, together with his wife Charika initiated Autism Sunday in 2002, has urged churches to speak out on the suffering that parents, carers and people with autism and Asperger's Syndrome are going through as a result of not having the public services in education, health, specialist speech therapy and respite care they desperately need.

The campaign was launched in 2000 by the Corea Family, who have struggled to get support for their son Charin who will be 12 years old this year and has ASD.

It is now a huge movement - they initiated 2002 as Autism Awareness Year, supported by 800 UK organisations, and that year the first ever service for autism was held at St Paul's Cathedral in London - to mark the inauguration of Autism Sunday in the UK.

Ivan Corea said: "I believe faith communities have a huge role to play in reaching out to the socially excluded, the vulnerable and the downtrodden. I would urge churches to go out to the community and reach out to parents, carers and all people with autism and Asperger's Syndrome.

"Faith communities could provide befriending services, help families with autism who are struggling to cope with life and 'speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves.' We urge Church leaders of all denominations to back our call for a national strategy on autism and a 10-year plan for autism and Asperger's Syndrome,' he said.

Autism campaigners are calling on church leaders to take these matters up with the Prime Minister.

According to new research commissioned by the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities, the annual cost of autism to the UK is just under £28 billion.

For further information on Autism Sunday please see the website:
http://autismsunday.tripod.com

For the Autism Action film on youtube please see:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPyP-slDT6M

Pictured above: Ivan Corea of the Autism Awareness Campaign with Archbishop John Sentamu, Baroness Pola Uddin and Lady Sentamu in the House of Lords

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