Respect,Acceptance,Inclusion Discover the World Autism Awareness Day campaign run by Autism-Europe in 2016

On World Autism Awareness Day 2016 (April 2nd), Autism-Europe launched its 2016 campaign focusing on the theme “Respect, Acceptance, Inclusion”. This slogan was selected by its members, shifting the focus from mere “awareness” to “acceptance” of autism, and conveying a positive and optimistic message about autism.

the campaign

The campaign is based on the social model of disability and has a strong rights-based approach, recalling the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities to trigger the conditions for an inclusive society. This is reflected in the campaign manifesto, which outlines Autism-Europe’s call for action to policy-makers.

The manifesto addresses a list of pressing issues that decision-makers in Europe must tackle to ensure autistic people are given the opportunities to thrive, not least the push for the creation of a European Strategy for Autism as laid out in the Written Declaration on Autism passed by Members of the European Parliament in 2015.

Following the endorsement by 418 MEPs of the Written Declaration on autism, a conference was held in the European Parliament on 29 September 2015. It was co-chaired by MEP Nicola Caputo, MEP Marek Plura (co-signatory and co-President of the Disability Intergroup) and MEP Miriam Dalli (co-signatory).

The motto

One of the biggest barriers faced by people on the autism spectrum is the discrimination they experience in many fields of life. It often stems from a lack of understanding of what it really means to be autistic. Attitudinal barriers, stereotypes and prejudices hamper the participation of autistic people in society.

It is time for society to gain a better understanding of autism to remove the barriers that autistic people face, and which prevent inclusion. To include people with autism, society must show acceptance. This requires respecting those around you and accepting them for who they are. The three concepts are thus intrinsically linked.

The relay baton

To show support for the campaign, people were asked to take photographs of themselves passing a relay baton. This symbol was chosen because, as well as embodying an act of acceptance and inclusion, through its reference to sport the relay baton highlights the strength that comes from working together and complementing each other’s talents.

Infographic of the campaign

To get people involved in the campaign, Autism-Europe produced a toolkit indicating how to most effectively bring the subject to the attention of the general public.

reaching out via social media

To help promote the campaign, Autism-Europe set up a Thunderclap. Thunderclap is programme that allows campaign organisers to register people’s messages of support and to pre-programme them to be released simultaneously via social media on a given date. In the case of the “Respect, Acceptance, Inclusion” campaign, all of the messages became visible on the morning of the 2 April. With the help of the Thunderclap, the campaign message achieved a total reach of over 207,000 social media users.

engaging eu policy-makers

The European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen publicly showed her support by appearing with our campaign logo.

Marianne Thyssen, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility.

Furthermore, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from all over Europe passed the baton to show their support for the respect, acceptance and inclusion of people on the autism spectrum.

From top to bottom and from left to right: MEP Catherine Stihler (UK), MEP Jana Zitnanska (Slovakia), MEP Miriam Dalli (Malta) and Autism-Europe Director Aurélie Baranger, MEP Verónica Lope and MEP Rosa Estaràs (Spain), MEP Josep-María Terricabras and MEP Jordi Sebastià (Spain), MEP Dubravka Šuica (Croatia) and Autism-Europe Communication Officer Cristina Fernández, MEP Helga Stevens (Belgium) and Marek Plura (Poland), MEP Paul Rübig (Austria), MEP Anneliese Dodds (UK), MEP Soledad Cabezón (Spain) and MEP Nicola Caputo and MEP Nicola Danti (Italy).

famous supporters

A wide array of public figures as well as people from the world of sport have participated in the campaign.

Players of FC Bayern Munich such us Mario Götze, Thomas Müller, Robert Lewandowski or Xabi Alonso (among others) and coach Josep Guardiola joint the campaign by passing the baton/ Pictures from Autismo España

Personalities such us the players of FC Bayern München and Club Atlético de Madrid, acting Prime Minister of Spain Mariano Rajoy, Italian Minister of Health Beatrice Lorenzin or the First Lady of Malta, Michelle Muscat publicly supported this campaign.

From top to bottom and from left to right: acting Prime Minister of Spain Mariano Rajoy, President of the Belgian Paralympic Committee Anne d' Ieteren, First Lady of Malta Michelle Muscat, candidate for the presidency of Spain Albert Rivera, Italian Minister of Health Beatrice Lorenzin, singer Manuel Carrasco, Athlético de Madrid football player Saul Niguez, retired basketball player from Spain Fernando Romay, team and Maxime Prévot, mayor of Namur and vice-president of the Walloon region, Belgium and journalists Marta Reyero and Miguel Ángel Oliver
The campaing builds momentum throughout Europe

Then it was the turn of our members throughout Europe to take the baton and pass it on for respect, acceptance and inclusion. People from every corner of the continent joined forces to spread the campaign’s message.


Rincón De La Victoria Triathlon Club
Students of first primary education from CIPF Politécnico from Lugo


Ron Fortuna from Target Autism Ltd, Ali Fortuna and Dr. David Preece from the University of Northampton


Participants of the race "Run the Difference" in Brussels, organised by the KU Leuven in partnership with Autism-Europe


Picture from Rainman's Home
Picture from Rainman's Home


Meeting with MEP Jana Zitnanska to prepare the World Autism Awareness Day, by giving S.P.O.S.A a blue relay baton.
MEP Jana Zitnanska spreads the message of "Respect, Acceptance, Inclusion" campaign to some local politicians and community of families with autistic member in Bratislava.


Autistica Football Club. Picture from WAAD Roma
WAAD celebrations in Rome. Picture from Associazione Nazionale Genitori Soggetti Autistici del Lazio


Bay street shopping center in la Valleta. Picture from Autism Parents Malta
Pharmacists at Mater Dei Hospital. Picture from Autism Parents Malta


Students and children from special schools in Zagreb. Picture from Centar za Autizam
Participants of the activities organised in Zagreb during the World Autism Awareness Day. Picture from Centar za Autizam

fyr of macedonia

Macedonian Scientific Society for Autism (MSSA) team
Journalist Violeta Sovkarovska passed the baton to the President of Moto Club "Night Wolves", the famous bikers who are great supporters of people with autism. Picture from MSSA


Picture from Autism Assessment Support Practice center - AASP
Picture from Autism Assessment Support Practice center - AASP

ESIPP and ASDEU project partners show support


To spread the word about Autism-Europe’s campaign, partners from the project also appeared in photos passing the baton to support the respect, acceptance and inclusion of persons with autism.

During celebrations for World Autism Awareness Day celebration in Spain, the Autism Spectrum Disorders in Europe (‪ASDEU‬‬‬‬) project, in which Autism-Europe is one of the 20 acting partners, received an award from the Federación Autismo Madrid, in Spain.


Partners of the ESIPP project from Cyprus, Croatia, FYR of Macedonia and UK also joined Autism-Europe in passing the baton ahead of World Autism Awareness Day.

Participants of the Conference "Supporting Together Children and pupils with ASD" for teachers, educators and other pressionals in Zagreb

World Autism Awareness Day Observance at the UN

On the 1st of April, The UN held its 2016 Observance of World Autism Awareness Day. Key to the day’s proceedings was the keynote speech given by Steve Silberman, author of ‘NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity’.

In his speech Mr Simberman underlines the fact that autistic people have been part of the fabric of humanity for a very long time, often diagnosed under other conditions, and that it is time to move beyond shallow awareness of autism to true appreciation of autistic people and respect for their humanity.

Ahead of World Autism Awareness Day the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also made an address in which he called on governments around the world to foster more neurodiverse societies in which the human potential of all individuals is harnessed and the rights of autistic people are respected.


Two of Autism-Europe’s members produced videos for the occasion of World Autism Awareness Day. The first was produced by the Spanish organisation Autismo España whose video sought to spread the word about the campaign to people in Spain, highlighting the campaign slogan, the baton-passing initiative, and the Spanish hashtag for the campaign #Pasaloporelautismo (pass it for autism).

The second video was released by the National Autistic Society (UK) the day before World Autism Awareness Day as part of their own campaign titles “Too much information”. The video puts the viewers in the shoes of a child with autism experiencing “sensory overload”, i.e. difficulty to process sound, light, etc., to make them understand the overwhelming impact it can have on a person with autism as opposed to a child being naughty.

Paralympic Games

The closing of this long-running campaign, and Autism-Europe’s 11th International Congress, will coincide with the Paralympic games taking place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The visual identity of the campaign, with the relay baton symbolising respect, acceptance and inclusion, goes hand in hand with the theme of sport.

Ionel Lungu, Laura Valeanu, and Mihăiță Papara, members of the Romanian Winter Paralympic

Our campaign will again rebuild momentum around the dates of the Paralympic games and bring back to the forefront the key message “Respect, Acceptance, Inclusion”.


The campaign is set to draw to a close at the time of Autism-Europe’s 11th International Congress, hosted by The National Autistic Society from the 16-18 September 2016.

The title of this year’s congress is “Happy, healthy and empowered” and will continue exploring the themes raised during the “Respect, Acceptance, Inclusion” campaign. Autism-Europe’s international congresses are dedicated to sharing advances in practical and scientific knowledge about autism to as wide an audience as possible, including researchers, professionals, parents and self-advocates.

Thank you for your support, it’s your participation that makes the difference!

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Autism Europe

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