The campaign “Together we fight autism” represents a national initiative for awareness raising and fundraising, which was developed between November 2008 and May 2009. It focused on care and recovery of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
The goal of the campaign was to provide information and to raise public and decision makers’ awareness concerning the major difficulties that families with autistic children face in regard to early diagnosis, access to individualized recovery therapy and to a network of services that respond to the ASD problematic.
Partners of RAA foundation in initiating and running this campaign were Vodafone Foundation Romania (official partner for the campaign), Civil Society Development Foundation (FDSC) and the Center for Legal Resources (for the advocacy component).
The campaign received financial support from the Vodafone Foundation Romania and by the pharmaceutical company Elli-Lilly. It aimed, through the fundraising activities, to financially secure the access of 23 children with ASD to successful recovery therapies.
Other partners: Step-by-step – Bambi Kindergartens, Children in Distress Foundation of Bucharest, “For You” Foundation of Timisoara, “Pail Popescu Neveanu” Center for Inclusive Education of Timisoara, Rubin Foundation, ANCAAR Iasi, Puzzle Association Romania, Association of parents with autism of Bucharest Sector 6, AEGEE Timisoara, Help Autism Now Society USA.
Campaign supporters: 2ActivePR, Bucuresti Mall, Plaza Romania, 4 Proof Film Production Company, Cocor MediaChannel, Curtea Veche, Fan Curier, Iulius Mall, Humanitas Bookstores, Carturesti Bookstore Timisoara, National Opera of Timisoara, mayoralties from Bucharest, Craiova, Iasi and Timisoara and ZoomTV.
Project beneficiaries: the direct beneficiaries were the 23 children with autism spectrum disorders selected for the fundraising campaign for their recovery therapies but also over 15.000 children with ASD from all over the country and their families.
Currently there is no accurate data on the real number of children with ASD as the disorders are often under-diagnosed. At global level, autism, in all its manifestations, is considered public health priority due to the significant increase of incidence and of the total cases number. Therefore, it is expected that in Romania too the number of ASD children to go over the limit of the 3.000 cases currently in evidence at social and child protection services.
Children with ASD can recover in a fairly large proportion on the condition that diagnosis is given as early as possible and rapid access to recovery therapies is ensured. Of all ASD recovery therapies available, most evident results were obtained with ABA therapy if used by professionals with experience in the field. Unfortunately, in Romania there are neither a form of certification available for the ABA specialists nor a proper practical and theoretical training program.
Because of high costs of recovery therapies paid exclusively by the families of children with ASD, they face major financial difficulties that they can barely cope with. The intense stress and emotional charge that families with ASD children face add to these difficulties. Most of the times, the family, especially the mother, is part of the team that works together for the recovery of the child with ASD. The team also includes psychotherapists, speech therapist, physiotherapist, social workers. It’s for this reason that the mother quits her job, in most of the cases, in order to learn ASD recovery techniques and to dedicate her time to the child.
Both the child with ASD and its family need the support from a team of specialists and from a specialized network for therapy and support.
The “Together we fight autism” campaign started on November 11, 2008, with a press conference held at Carturesti Bookstore attended by the project partners along with parents, journalists and personalities from the entertainment world who wanted to get involved such as Manuela Harabor and Bianca Brad.
In addition, this event included a photography exhibition of the 23 ASD children selected as beneficiaries of the fundraising campaign. Later on, the exhibition was held in Bucharest by two of the Humanitas Bookstores, following the intent expressed by the chain of bookstores to get involved in the project for ASD children. 7 more photography exhibitions were organized in other major cities in the country.
The short film made by RAA Foundation with Manuela Harabor’s support was later broadcasted on 14 major TV channels with national coverage. The campaign was publicized on 42 websites wile over 70 press articles and stories were published. The problem of the ASD children and the need for an urgent solution were debated during 6 TV talk-shows.
Since one of the key elements of ASD children recovery is early diagnosis, 10.000 leaflets and posters were distributed for the “first line professionals” – family doctors and pediatricians respectively.
On the occasion of periodical health evaluations, the family doctor is the first who can observe the simptomatology associated with ASD debut and can refer the case to a specialist for confirmation. For this reason, the role that the family medicine network can play in diagnosis and consequently in recovering the ASD child is essential.
The 10.000 leaflets and posters were distributed at national level with the support from the National Association of Family Doctors. These work tools presented a simplified algorithm of ASD diagnosis and concrete cases and were appreciated by the family doctors as being useful and designed in an innovative and attractive manner. At the same time, early diagnosis of ASD at children, as integrant part of the medical pediatric practice, was debated within 6 medical events with regional or national coverage.