Tony Blair, thoughts on autism.

Prime Minister, United Kingdom

I’m delighted to launch the first ever internet conference on a disability issue.

I congratulate the National Autistic Society for having taken this initiative and for all the work they do with adults and children with autistic sprectrum disorder. The autism websites can help develop our understanding of what is a very very difficult issue. Autism is often a very hidden disability. Communication about it’s nature is very difficult when autism itself involves a difficulty in interacting with other people. Families find it very difficult to cope with. People find it very difficult to come to terms with. Often when we’re dealing with children or adults with autism we see people that appear to be in every respect fully able bodied and yet as a result of autism there is one of the most fundamental problems they have to cope with, namely the inability to communicate and interact with other people in a normal way. So, it’s a difficult problem and it’s one which we’re only just beginning to understand the full implications of.

The purpose of the autism websites is to help parents and families, but also health and education professionals to exchange information, pool ideas, to get to know how different people are coping with this problem and indeed how different countries are. In Britain there are around half a million people with autism, in the world there are some forty million worldwide. The autism websites is a significant and important step in trying to help teach us more about this disability, more about how we cope with it and more about how we help each other to understand all the problems that autism gives rise to.

I welcome the initiative very much indeed, I think it’s taken a lot of vision and imagination by the National Autistic Society to launch it, and I know that it will offer a lot of comfort and real help to thousands possibly millions of people.

Thank you.