Churches of all denominations across Britain and Ireland are being urged to mark Autism Sunday and the International Day of Prayer for Autism and Asperger's Syndrome on Sunday 10 February 2008.
There are around 60 million people with autism around the world and over 500,000 people affected in the United Kingdom, say health campaigners.
Ivan Corea, head of the Autism Awareness Campaign UK, who, together with his wife Charika initiated Autism Sunday in 2002, urged churches to speak out on the suffering that parents, carers and people with autism and Asperger's Syndrome are undergoing as a result of inadequate public services in education, health, specialist speech therapy and respite care.
The campaign was launched in 2000 after the Corea family struggled to access support for their son Charin, who will be 12 years old this year and has ASD.
It is now supported by 800 UK organisations, has backers including Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu, and has held services at high profile venues including St Paul's Cathedral in London.
Ivan Corea said: "I believe faith communities have a huge role to play in reaching out to the socially excluded, the vulnerable and the down trodden. I would urge Churches to go out to the community and reach out to parents, carers and all people with autism and Asperger's Syndrome."
"Faith communities could provide befriending services, help families with autism who are struggling to cope with life ... We urge Church leaders of all denominations to back our call for a national strategy on autism and a 10 year plan for autism and Asperger's Syndrome," he declared.
According to new research commissioned by the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities, the annual cost of autism to the UK is just under £28 billion.
The findings, detailed in the Economic Consequences of Autism in the UK report,reveal that children with autism cost £2.7 billion a year, yet for adults the figure is £25 billion - more than eight times as much.
There are approximately 540,000 people with autism in the UK - 433,000 adults and 107,000 children. More resources are needed to intervene early butlife is a struggle for many parents, carers, children and adults with autism and Asperger's Syndrome.
Recently the Autism Awareness Campaign called for a 'Day for Autism' in Parliament. Baroness Pola Uddin has called on Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Children's Secretary Ed Balls to set up an Autism task force to look at the serious health and education issues involved.
Lady Uddin also urged the Prime Minister to consult more widely with other government departments, the voluntary sector, parents groups, community groups and charities.
Lee Scott, MP for Ilford North, created parliamentary history recently by being the first MP to introduce an Autism Bill in the House of Commons. MPs have also tabled a series of questions. Harry Cohen MP has also tabled early day motion 705 onautism currently being signed by MPs of all parties.
For further information on Autism Sunday, see the website:
An Autism Action film on YouTube can be found at: