Voice for Autism: Advocacy & Action is a new NGO that focuses on supporting young adults with disabilities to build meaningful, connected lives.
The NGO was founded by a group of concerned parents and professionals united in the belief that they have to secure basic human rights for their loved ones and give a voice to young adults with disabilities.
They plan to use their expertise to set up a group home in Nicosia where residents can live fulfilled, independent lives and reach their full potential.
This first home will serve as a prototype for future group homes. The model is one whereby the NGO, with its expertise and experience with autism, partners with government and private enterprise to create a residence that will be a permanent home for the autism community.
There is currently no such facility in Nicosia and there is an urgent need for such homes.
Ellen Georgiou Pontikis, President of Voice for Autism, has a 27-year-old son who is autistic and has experienced first-hand how successful group homes and work programs work overseas.
“There is no reason we can’t have similar programs in Cyprus,” she says.
“The law is on our side and we need to get the government on our side as we begin to put much-needed programs in place. Civil societies around the world are taking note that the autism population is growing, moreover it is aging, and resources need to be made available.
“There are EU mandates in place that state people with disabilities have a right to independent and supportive living services and our goal is to give them a voice in achieving these basic human rights.”
Voice for Autism is launching an awareness campaign and has started lobbying government to secure these rights.
The immediate goals of the NGO are:
- To create a group home providing independent and supported living services for young adults with disabilities so they can reach their fullest potential.
- To provide employment opportunities for young people with disabilities. The focus is inclusion, productivity and self-worth.
- To create and support high-quality programs that maximize the potential of young people with disabilities and provide opportunities to participate at college campuses, volunteer centres, work sites, and other educational and recreational activities.
- To advocate for inclusive communities and strategic initiatives to transform the national landscape for young adults with disabilities.
The CDC (Centres for Disease Control & Prevention) in the USA estimates that 1 in 44 children are on the autism spectrum. This demographic is an aging one and the reality is there are now an increasing number of young adults diagnosed with autism who are aging out of the school system and families are desperate to secure a place in society and quality of life for them.
Board Members of Voice for Autism includes Eugenia Mina, a parent of a young adult with autism and a speech pathologist; Andrie Christodoulidou, a special needs educator and Autism expert; and NGO experts Fadi Marouf and Noeleen Advani.
“We are strong, experienced, qualified voices and we are going to be heard,” says Pontikis. “We give a voice to all young adults with disabilities who are seeking a place in a civil society and who have basic rights to live a life with dignity and respect.”
Voice for Autism: Advocacy & Action is a registered NGO and non-profit that provides advocacy and support for young adults with disabilities to build meaningful, connected lives. We work to advance independence, productivity and inclusion, and advocate for improved public and private policies.