Almost two-thirds of Ukraine’s 7.5 million children had been displaced just a few weeks into the invasion by Russian forces, according to UNICEF, the United Nations’ children agency. Many of them forced to leave everything behind: their homes, their schools, and often, their family members.
Among them, are the most vulnerable children – those with special needs and developmental disabilities. According to the Autism Europe at least 1% of the Ukrainian population is on the autism spectrum, therefore we can estimate that over 440.000 Ukrainians are autistic. Yet we know that they face a chronic lack of support that is exacerbated in the current context.
In addition to witnessing the destruction and violence of war, Ukrainian children with autism are also grappling with the scary and overstimulating sound of sirens and ongoing shelling, the confinement of crowded bomb shelters, or the chaos of unexpected travel. Their interests, friendships and routines have been disrupted, and the many therapeutic supports on which they have come to rely on have been upended by the war. Some families are learning to navigate new environments in foreign countries while struggling to find the right therapeutic support. Yet others have opted to stay in Ukraine, as the perilous journey to safety would be too overwhelming and disruptive for their children.
Our mission is to ensure that children with autism and their families have access to sufficient high quality therapeutic services and supports to help them thrive and live fulfilling lives within communities and environments that are safe and welcoming.