“The first National Strategy for Autism has been approved.”

The Cabinet proceeded today with the approval of the first National Strategy and Action Plan for Autism


“The Cabinet progressed today with the approval of the first National Strategy and Action Plan for Autism, with Deputy Minister of Social Welfare Marilena Evangelou emphasizing that the implementation of the strategy will allow authorities to have a comprehensive approach and a real image of this disability, which presents increasing trends both internationally and in Cyprus.”

“In statements following the Cabinet meeting, Ms. Evangelou said that action for the implementation of the Strategy is beginning, with one of the first actions involving the creation of a national electronic platform for autism, as well as information programs, training, upgrading, and expansion of the services provided.”

“The establishment of the national strategy and action plan for autism separately from other disabilities was deemed necessary due to the increase in autism diagnoses both in our country and internationally, and because autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder characterized by varying degrees of difficulty, with diverse levels and gradations of symptoms and challenges,” explained Ms. Evangelou.

According to Ms. Evangelou, the National Strategy and Action Plan for Autism 2024 – 2028 includes 53 actions under 7 thematic pillars, following the life course of a child, an adult with autism, namely research, early detection and diagnosis, health and therapeutic intervention, early childhood and family intervention, education, social protection and independent living, employment, and participation in leisure, culture, and society.

She further emphasized that the importance of the national strategy lies in its ability to centralize all services related to autism under the umbrella of the national strategy for better coordination of actions and holistic addressing of needs as well as challenges.

“The action now begins,” she continued, “for the implementation of the strategy and Action Plan. Our first priority is to continue the operation of the National Committee, which I will convene very soon, the establishment of permanent subcommittees under the coordination of the Department of Social Integration of Persons with Disabilities of the Ministry of Social Welfare, and the systematic cooperation of all stakeholders, especially the organizations representing individuals with autism themselves.”

As she said, the coordinating body of the National Strategy is the Ministry of Social Welfare, and other ministries participate in it, such as the Ministries of Labor, Health, Education, Transportation, and Finance.

“We want to have a complete picture in Cyprus.”

Asked about autism cases in Cyprus, Ms. Evaggelou stated that according to data from the World Health Organization, 1 in 100 children or adults worldwide are diagnosed with autism, while in Cyprus, the recorded data from the Department of Social Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities reports about 2,000 cases.

She noted, however, that “one of the reasons for the need for this national strategy is to capture the true picture of the situation in the country because clearly the Department of Social Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities of the Ministry has the data of individuals who apply to the Department for the benefits or services it provides.”

So, she said, one of the goals of the national strategy is to have a true picture of the number and not only in terms of numbers but also what is provided to these individuals in terms of services, how they live, what treatment they follow, how their integration and activation in society are.

Ms. Evaggelou further explained that there is a wide spectrum of autism with different symptoms, needs, and challenges. “Therefore, there may be individuals who do not feel that they need support or services. However, we need to know the real picture that exists,” she added.

“I personally believe that there are more (people with autism), how many more and why they have not turned to the Department of Social Integration with Disabilities remains to be proven along the way,” she added.

At this point, Ms. Evaggelou also mentioned that “we are not starting from scratch,” as there are programs targeting people with autism. She referred to the “Aktida” program for preschool-aged children with autism, which intervenes immediately after diagnosis, offering psycho-social and educational support both to the individuals with autism and to their families.

She cited as an example that through the national strategy, there will be continuous training based on all new scientific data for professionals such as doctors, pediatricians, educators, and kindergarten teachers in schools and wherever there are children for the early diagnosis of autism. “Because early diagnosis and intervention matter,” she emphasized.

Ms. Evaggelou stated that as part of the Strategy, the organization of a national conference on autism is also planned for this coming autumn, which will be established annually.

Source: CNA

“A Spectrum of Possibilities”

“The Greek Community of South Australia stands by autistic individuals.”

“For the first time in its history, the Greek Orthodox Community of South Australia (GOCASA) celebrated World Autism Month with a special event aimed at raising awareness and understanding of the condition among the general public, highlighting the contribution of autistic individuals to the broader community, and encouraging more multicultural communities to join the conversation.”

The event with the theme “A Spectrum of Possibilities” took place symbolically at the Community Meeting Room on Wednesday, April 3rd, one day after the 17th World Autism Awareness Day, when the Malinauskas Labor Government inaugurated the state’s first Autism Inclusion Charter.

The speakers were the country’s first Assistant Minister for Autism, Emily Bourke, the president and founder of the Gold Foundation, Angela Pangallo OAM, and the world’s No. 2 in Australia and No. 5 in the world tennis player with intellectual disability, Andriana Petraki.

“I am very proud of everyone who participated in the event. It is important as one of the oldest multicultural organizations in the state to play our role in raising awareness about autism, removing barriers, and promoting acceptance and inclusion of autistic individuals, their caregivers, and families,” said Panagiotis Gonis, Vice President of the Hellenic Orthodox Community of South Australia.

“Through education and dialogue, we can understand autism in communities like ours and reduce the stigma and misconceptions associated with it,” emphasized Mr. Gonis.

According to recent statistics, it is estimated that 3.2% of school-aged children have been diagnosed with autism in Australia, while the quality of life of autistic Australians is among the lowest in Australian society.

“Autism is the largest primary disability group in the NDIS, and South Australia is above the national average, with 41% of NDIS participants in South Australia being autistic,” said Assistant Minister for Autism, Emily Bourke.

“Many wonder why we need an Assistant Minister for Autism – and it’s unique. We are the only government in the world to have this position. It’s because if we let down the largest disability group in our community, then we let down every disability group.”

Angela Pangallo OAM, the president and founder of the nonprofit organization Gold Foundation, moved the audience with the story of her son, Connor, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome fifteen years ago. She shared how the challenges he faced after the diagnosis, particularly without available support, inspired her to “give kids a chance” and help other families.

In her speech, following a few words from the Mayor of the City of West Torrens, Michael Coxon, Ms. Pangallo made a special mention of how the late president of the Greek Orthodox Community of South Australia, Vasilis Gonis, whom she referred to as a “pioneer and visionary,” helped the organization find a new home at the Camden Park Community Centre.

“It’s a huge privilege to do this work for the autism community, and the special honor is doing it with the support of the GOCASA. I grew up in the Greek Orthodox Community, and my parents were part of it from its inception. That gives it more meaning and purpose,” Ms. Pangallo said.

In her touching and inspiring presentation, Australian tennis champion of Greek descent, Andriana Petraki, stated that as an autistic individual, she has faced challenges but maintains a “positive and resilient” attitude.

“We need to encourage each other and people with disabilities to participate more in sports, schools, workplaces, and organizations,” she said.

Autism – ADHD: What role do microbiota and antibiotics play in their appearance

The role of the gut appears significant in the emergence of neurodevelopmental disorders in children, according to recent study data published in Cell. Specifically, disrupted gut flora in the early years of life is linked to diagnoses such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) later in life, as revealed by the study led by researchers from the University of Florida and Linköping University.

This study is the first prospective study examining the composition of gut flora and a wide range of other factors in infants in relation to children’s neurological system development. Researchers identified many biological markers that appear to be related to future neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, communication disorder, and intellectual disability.

“The remarkable aspect of the work is that these biomarkers were found at birth in umbilical cord blood or in the child’s feces at the age of one, over a decade before the diagnosis,” said Dr. Eric W Triplett, professor in the Department of Microbiology and Cell Science at the University of Florida in the United States, one of the study’s researchers.

The role of antibiotics

Autism: Turning the focus to parents with spectrum children – A psychologist explains

For the study, more than 16,000 children born between 1997 and 1999 were followed from birth to 20 years of age. Of these, 1,197 children, accounting for 7.3%, were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, communication disorder, or intellectual disability.

A large number of lifestyle and environmental factors were identified through repeated surveys conducted during the children’s upbringing. For some of the children, researchers analyzed substances in umbilical cord blood and bacteria in their feces at just one year of age.

“We found in the study that there are clear differences in gut flora as early as the first year of life between those who develop ASD or ADHD and those who do not. We found correlations with some factors affecting gut bacteria, such as antibiotic treatment in the child’s first year, which is associated with an increased risk of these diseases,” explained Dr. Ludvigsson, senior professor at the Department of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences at Linköping University, who led the study together with Dr. Triplett.

Children who had recurrent ear infections in their first year of life were at an increased risk of being diagnosed with a developmental neurological disorder later in life. It may not be the infection itself that is the culprit, but researchers speculate that there is a correlation with antibiotic treatment. As they found, the presence of Citrobacter bacteria or absence of Coprococcus bacteria increased the risk of future diagnosis.

A possible explanation is that antibiotic treatment may disrupt the composition of the gut flora in a way that contributes to neurodevelopmental disorders. This risk may increase the likelihood of diseases associated with the immune system, such as type 1 diabetes and pediatric rheumatism, as shown in previous studies.

Other environmental factors

The present study also confirms that the risk of developmental neurological diagnosis in children increases if parents smoke. Conversely, breastfeeding has a protective effect, according to the study. Specifically, from umbilical cord blood samples for the detection of various substances from metabolism, such as fatty acids and amino acids, it was found that children who were later diagnosed had low levels of several important fatty substances in the blood. One of these, linolenic acid, necessary for the formation of omega-3 fatty acids and with positive effects on the brain.

Although the research is in its early stages and involves only a portion of children, and more studies are needed, the discovery that many biomarkers for future neurodevelopmental disorders can be observed at a young age opens up the possibility of implementing long-term preventive measures.

8 children with autism, without a companion! – What is the responsible ministry doing, what does the Limassol School Inspectorate say

Since September 11th, when schools opened, until today, in the special education unit of the primary school in Limassol, parents and the teacher of the eight children have been waiting in vain for an escort.

The latest update-commitment states that today (Wednesday) a companion is expected to go to school for the first day, but the parents are fed up with the promises, emphasizing that ‘one escort is not enough for eight children.’ The School District of Limassol is aware of the issue and fully agrees with the parents, with its president, Dinos Ellinas, stating to ‘Π’ that the District simply implements the decisions of the Ministry, while sending a message about the need to fill other positions.

“Unfortunately, we have been experiencing a mockery here for ten days since the schools opened,” says Nadia, a mother of a first-grade elementary school child, which affects her child. “We have reached the point of wondering whether our children should go to school or whether it is better to keep them at home for everyone’s safety,” she adds with evident disappointment. “They tell us every day that someone will come as an escort tomorrow. The teacher of our children is a hero who manages to cope with this situation, but she can’t go on any longer.” As she explained to us, this is a Special Education class where all eight children are on the autism spectrum, which significantly affects their daily routines. “These children cannot go to the toilet, wear diapers, do not speak to others, cannot take care of themselves, they need special treatment to be able to participate in the school’s daily activities. We are not asking for anything more, just to provide 2-3 escorts so that they can go to school normally.”

As has been reported to “Π”, the same situation prevails in at least two other similar units in Limassol, which still remain without escorts. The problems caused are enormous, as teachers are forced to perform escort duties during their free periods, taking children to the toilet or feeding and caring for them, which is not their responsibility. At the same time, there is a risk for the other children, as it is extremely difficult for an educator to cope, especially with issues that are the responsibility of escorts.

The president of the School Board, Dinos Ellinas, in communication we had with him, acknowledged the serious problem that exists. “It’s a paradox we face every year, even though we know the need for escorts, the Ministry of Education always approves fewer positions, and afterwards we try to find solutions with additional positions,” he commented initially, adding that “we are tormenting parents, children, and educators.” This issue must be resolved by covering all the real needs, he said, emphasizing that “as a School Board, whenever we have approval for a position, we pay for it immediately.”

Source: Politis

There is a gene that may affect our biological clock and is associated with the development of autistic disorders.

A recent study published in the prestigious journal Molecular Psychiatry by a team of scientists from the Medical School of the University of Minnesota, the University of Texas, San Antonio, and the Institute of Biomedical Research (IBR) of the Foundation for Research and Technology (FORTH) reveals that a gene that plays a central role in regulating the circadian or biological clock may be associated with the development of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Neurodevelopmental disorder of the autistic spectrum (ASD) is characterized by a wide range of behavioral changes, including social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and non-verbal communication. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ASD affects 1 in 44 children in the U.S.

Approximately 50-80% of children with ASD experience sleep problems, while this percentage is less than 30% for the general population. The causes of sleep problems in ASD are not fully clear, but the dysfunction of our internal clock could be a factor.

“It has long been recognized that the function of our internal clock is often disrupted in patients with autism, and these patients often present various sleep problems,” said Dr. Ruifeng Cao, Associate Professor of Neurosciences at the Medical School of the University of Minnesota. “But it is not yet known whether autism can be directly triggered by the disruption of the circadian rhythm gene.”

This study found that the disruption of a significant gene that regulates the circadian rhythm, in preclinical models, can lead to phenotypes resembling autism.

Specifically, the deletion of the Bmal1 gene can cause significant changes in social behavior, communication, and repetitive behaviors.

The models also exhibited impairments in their pineal gland or “pineal ataxia.” The research team further examined the pathological changes in the pineal gland and identified a series of cellular and molecular changes that suggest neurodevelopmental deficits.

The disruption of this gene could potentially constitute a mechanism underlying various forms of autism and possibly other neurodevelopmental disorders, and this discovery paves the way for further exciting research,” stated Dr. Christos Gkogkas, Principal Investigator of Neurobiology at the Institute of Biomedical Research (IBR) of the Foundation for Research and Technology (FORTH).

The research team plans to continue studying other circadian rhythm genes that are mutated in ASD. Specifically, they recommend the development of new therapeutic strategies based on their findings.

This study is supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Winston and Maxine Wallin Neuroscience Discovery Fund.

The research team consists of professors Harry Orr, Alfonso Araque, Paulo Kofuji, and Jonathan Jonathan Gewirtz (now at the University of Arizona) from the University of Minnesota, as well as Prof. Victor Jin from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, and Dr. Kleanthi Halkiadaki and Dr. Christos Gkogkas from the Institute of Biomedical Research (IBR) of FORTH in Greece.

Source: FemaleG

The research team consists of professors Harry Orr, Alfonso Araque, Paulo Kofuji, and Jonathan Jonathan Gewirtz (now at the University of Arizona) from the University of Minnesota, as well as Prof. Victor Jin from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, and Dr. Kleanthi Halkiadaki and Dr. Christos Gkogkas from the Institute of Biomedical Research (IBR) of FORTH in Greece.