Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC) are characterized by difficulties with social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, and restricted and repetitive behaviour; which are usually present since early childhood and continue during the life course. The prevalence of autism has been steadily increasing, which in part, likely reflects changes in the diagnostic concept and criteria as well as greater awareness, better recognition, changes in the use of diagnosis, and earlier age of diagnosis. The current median prevalence of autism across the globe is 0.62-0.70%, although the latest large-scale surveys report estimates of 1-2%. Similar rate is found in adults and with approximately 40% of autism cases being undiagnosed. One of the main characteristics of this condition is the diversity with which symptoms appear and develop in those affected.
Autism Spectrum Conditions and Right to Education ASC has functional and financial impact on those affected and their families. This impact ranges from out of pocket payments for non-covered health services to low employment prospects, poor mental health, anxiety and wellbeing problems. In order to tackle these problems and increase quality of life, autonomy, and insertion in society, the exercise of the fundamental right to education for autistic people in the European Union (EU) is crucial. Due to the diversity of presentation and evolution of ASC, the educational needs of autistic people tend to differ across time and between individuals. Provision for Special Education Needs (SEN) should be provided from early childhood, throughout the school years and extend to lifelong education to ensure that the full potential of people living with ASC in the EU is reached. Regardless of the severity of the condition, inclusive education of autistic people has been endorsed both through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) (Article 26) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which has been signed by all EU countries. The CRPD is the first international, legally-binding Human Rights treaty that focuses solely on people with disabilities. Member States that sign this treaty have the obligation to address problems and respect the needs of people with disabilities, including autism, such as the right to education. Specifically, the treaty sets out the right for all people with disabilities to be included in the general education system and receive required support (Article 24). Furthermore, Article 31 and 33 of the Convention lay down general conditions for the monitoring of the Convention specific obligations on States parties to monitor how the rights laid down in the Convention are being respected.
Although several areas of law are harmonized in the EU, public health remains within the competence of the Member States (Article 168). In EDUCAUS we want to advance educational access in ASC by researching how the lack of harmonization in public health and education policy and common standard of policy making in EU countries has resulted in a gap of delivery of SEN provision and the fulfilment of the right to education of autistic people across Europe. In order to evaluate this we want to map all 28 EU Member States SEN and ASC policy; aiming to create a comparative policy analysis that will culminate in a report of the differences that might be observed in ASC educational policy across the EU. The work carried out in this project aims to first map International, EU and national ASC policies in the field of education across these 28 countries. We use a policy path dependency methodology that links both the precedents of the UDHR and CRPD as main theoretical frameworks of reference. We aim to show main policy outcomes and the levels of interdependency between the different layers of policy developments to gain a clear view on the level of fulfilment of right to education and public health impact of autistic people across the EU countries.