UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has called for greater public awareness of autism, opposing the stigma and discrimination facing those suffering from the disorder.
The statement came in a message to mark the annual World Autism Awareness Day, observed globally on 2 April 2011.
"Children and persons with autistic conditions face major challenges associated with stigma and discrimination, as well as a lack of access to support," said the UN chief.
"Far too many suffer terrible discrimination, abuse and isolation, in violation of their fundamental human rights," he added.
Autism is a disorder that affects the brain's development of social and communication skills, and generally appears in the first three years of life.
"The number of children and people with autistic conditions continues to rise - in every nation and in every racial, ethnic and social group," the UN Secretary-General said.
Ban Ki-Moon added that it is critical to support parents of children with autism and to "create jobs for individuals with autism based on their skills and strengths, and improve public education to better meet the needs of students with autism."
More on World Autism Awareness Day: http://www.worldautismawarenessday.org/