April is Autism Awareness Month. For many years, the autism community and their families, a community of more than 1 million people, have been talking about their problems. Still the same, unresolved problems. And the world is changing. The time has come for Poland, too, to have a strategy for people on the autism spectrum. And permanently improve their quality of life.
The United Kingdom, Spain and even Malta. These are just some of the countries that have adopted a strategy to improve the quality of life of people on the autism spectrum. Why is such a strategy also needed in Poland?
Here are the top five reasons:
Poland still lacks systemic solutions that would effectively improve the quality of life for adults on the spectrum in particular. Those that do exist are often inadequate to the real needs. Difficulties of people on the spectrum appear at almost every stage of life. There are people who wait six months, a year or even longer for diagnosis and therapy in Poland. There are also people who receive a diagnosis only after the age of 30. This needs to change!
Difficult adulthood on the spectrum often begins while still in the school years. There are still not enough teachers in Polish education who understand the specifics of working with autistic people. Parents have difficulty interpreting the intricate regulations that provide support for students with autism, and the system itself has trouble implementing them. Students on the spectrum don't know their rights at school and can't enforce them, and neither do their parents and guardians.
The assistance offered in Poland is often inadequate, especially for people who are dependent or need a lot of support on a daily basis. The adjudication system is flawed and funding is inadequate. The proposed changes in adjudication raise concerns among parents and specialists - will anyone be left without support?
Poland still has an ineffective system of assisted employment and social rehabilitation. There is a lack of adaptations and positive prognosis for the future, including vocational, of people with autism. Laws providing support for people with autism are not efficiently implemented in our country.
Some autistic people remain dependent despite coming of age. They need caregivers in their daily lives. These, however, do not receive adequate support from the state. Often they are forced to give up their careers in order to be able to fully devote themselves to care. There is a lack of "respite" care at times of peak strain. The benefit system and its low value are inadequate to meet the needs of people on the spectrum and demotivating. Closed institutions are largely unsuited to caring for people on the spectrum, and staff are unqualified to care for people with autism.
How to change this reality? A strategy is needed! Because what is needed is long-term action for a community of 1 million to improve the quality of life for people on the autism spectrum.