Amb Prosor: "Behind each of the paintings you see is the story of a child who longs to express himself."
SG Ban Ki-moon: "The artists showcased here today prove, through their ‘speaking colours’, that anyone can reach out and touch another person."
(Israel Mission to the United Nations, New York)
On June 10, 2014, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon attended the opening of Speaking Colors – an exhibit featuring 25 paintings by Israeli children with autism – at the UN headquarters in New York.
The exhibit coincided with the first day of the Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, with a special focus this year on youth with disabilities. Israel signed the convention in 2012.
"Behind each of the paintings you see is the story of a child who longs to express himself," said Ron Prosor, Israeli ambassador the UN and vice chair of the UN conference. "There is a pressing need to raise awareness around disabilities, particularly invisible disabilities like autism that are often misunderstood and misdiagnosed."
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: "The artists showcased here today prove, through their ‘speaking colours’, that anyone can reach out and touch another person. Let us take inspiration from them and pledge to speak out, loudly and clearly, to demand the best possible conditions that will allow persons with autism to realize their personal goals – and make a positive impact on our world."
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) – a group of developmental disabilities, including Asperger’s syndrome – is characterized by impairments in communication, behavior and social interaction. It typically becomes apparent during the first three years of life. Some children show signs from birth while others seem to develop normally at first, only to slip suddenly into symptoms when they are 18 to 36 months old.
According to the Israeli Society for Autistic Children – known by its Hebrew acronym, ALUT – over 8,000 individuals in Israel have been diagnosed with autism; 1 out of 100 babies, with over 250 infants diagnosed annually. For 40 years, ALUT has offered a range of programs – from occupational centers to educational activities in schools – designed to support children with autism and their families from the time of diagnosis through adulthood.
ALUT will receive the Presidential Volunteer Medal from President Shimon Peres next week in one of his last official duties before his term ends next month. The organization was also recently awarded consultative status in the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the highest level granted by the UN to non-governmental organizations. This will allow ALUT representatives to contribute to the deliberations at this week’s meeting of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as well as other UN bodies throughout the year.
"Promoting the rights of persons with disabilities is a priority for Israel," Prosor stressed. "By shining a light into the darkest corners of society, every person will be able to take his rightful place as a valued member of families, our communities and our nations."