The Parliament of the Republic of Poland and the Senate of the Republic of Poland have passed a resolution in favor of people on the autism spectrum and their loved ones to develop a strategy to improve their situation. This is the beginning of change for the 1-million-strong community.
MPs and senators adopted the resolution by acclamation, meaning that no MP or senator was against it! The resolution calls on the government to take steps toward creating a strategy. The need for its creation and implementation stems from the Constitution of the Republic of Poland, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Standard Rules on Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, and other international and domestic legislation.
- We are very, very pleased. The community of people on the autism spectrum and their families has been waiting for years for a comprehensive look at their problems. The joint resolution of the Parliament and the Senate is a step in the right direction. It is the beginning of change for a community of 1 million people. Poland has a chance to join the ranks of other countries that have introduced an autism strategy, including the UK, Spain or even Malta," says Tomasz Michalowicz, president of the JiM Foundation.
Why is a strategy needed?
For years, the JiM Foundation has identified the most important reasons for the strategy:
1. insufficient access to medical services in Poland.
2 Ineffective inclusive education.
3 Outdated system of care and support.
4 Untapped opportunities to employ people in the spectrum.
5. Lack of solutions to build independence for some adults on the spectrum to their potential.
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.
This reality can be changed by a strategy that includes long-term actions for a community of 1 million people to improve the quality of life for those on the autism spectrum.