Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to welcome you to this event on the occasion of World Autism Awareness Day.
In a few minutes, we will watch a documentary on autism, “Ocho pasos adelante”, which is produced and directed by a young and talented Italian director, Selene Colombo.
As you all know, autism is a lifelong development disability that manifests itself during the first three years of life and results from a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain.
In Italy, according to recent estimates, there are about 600,000 children affected by autism. It is definitely a worldwide phenomenon with numbers consistently on the rise.
I do not know what brought Selene to become sensitive to the issue of autism. She will tell us more about this experience during the Questions & Answers session at the end of the screening. I can say, in anticipation, that Selene has directed a little gem.
It tells us five true stories of children in Buenos Aires. By focusing on the importance of early detection and diagnosis, it is the first documentary on autism offering tips on how to detect it from the very first months of life, and how parents and families may live a fulfilling life by tapping into the potential of their autistic kids.
It comes as no surprise at all that Selene, with this documentary film, is enjoying well-deserved success. The City of Rome and the Province of Buenos Aires alike have conferred awards to Selene’s “Ocho pasos adelante”. Actually, as I speak, in Rome an event is being held to discuss autism, early detection diagnosis, and “Ocho Pasos Adelante”.
We have recently been informed that the documentary will become part of a pilot-project undertaken by Italy’s National Healthcare Institute and the Bambin Gesu’ Hospital of Rome. The project focuses on how teachers can detect signs of autism in children in nurseries and preschools. This program makes Italy the first European country to adopt such a method.
My country is proud of its youngest generation of film directors. Here I would like to mention another Italian film – Carlo Zanotti’s “The Special Need” – which focuses on autism through a fictional story much appreciated at the Locarno Film Festival.
As stated by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his message for this year’s World Autism Awareness Day, the Day “is a chance to celebrate the creative minds of people with Autism Spectrum Disorders, and to renew our pledge to help them realize their great potential.”
We think “Ocho pasos adelante” offers the best opportunity to celebrate the creative minds of people with autism. So I hope you will enjoy the film and that we all become a bit more aware of the disorder and its implications.
Thank you, Selene, for your work and thank you all for sharing this occasion with us.