Supporting deinstitutionalisation: focus on autism

24.01.13

Autism should never be the cause of children being separated from their families.  Yet, depressingly, in many Eastern European countries, children diagnosed with autism are separated from their families and placed in institutions because there are no services to support them in their communities.  Many children with undiagnosed autism are also placed in institutions because they display challenging behavior.  Increasing awareness and developing support for children with autism is therefore critical to ensuring they are not removed from their families and communities.  It is also vital to develop community services so children with autism who have been placed in institutions can return home.

As part of our work in Bulgaria, Lumos is supporting professionals working on the State Agency for Child Protection’s ‘Childhood for All’ project, which is overseeing the closure of all institutions for children with disabilities in Bulgaria and securing appropriate placements for the children.  The needs of children with autism within this process are specific and is it vital that professionals understand how best to support them. As part of our work on this issue, we recently organized for Dr Iain McClure, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at The Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh, to deliver a seminar to professionals involved in preparing children from institutions to move back into the community.  Dr McClure’s seminar focused on the particular needs of children with autism in the context of the closure of institutions for children with disabilities.

A Lumos spokesperson in Bulgaria said: “The process of moving the children is extremely complicated. These children have spent their entire life in one room in the institution; what lies ahead of them is going to be a tremendous challenge. The preparation of a child with a disorder from the autistic spectrum is specific and will differ from the preparation of a child with sensory impairment or cerebral paralyses. Our responsibility is to be ready to handle this process in the most gentle to the child way”.

Donika Koleva, the manager of the Childhood for all project, said at the event: “We really need to make sure that we can recognize these children in the institutions, prepare them for the move and make sure the new services are ready for them”.    

 

 

 

Autism should never be the cause of children being separated from their families.

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