New York City Man to Speak at United Nations' World Autism Awareness Day Event

The United Nations will host World Autism Awareness Day on Friday, April 1, 2016, at their New York headquarters. The theme of this event is "Autism and the 2030 Agenda: Inclusion and Neurodiversity.

Adam Lieberman, an individual supported by Special Citizens will speak at this event. When asked how he felt upon receiving this news Lieberman stated, “I was sort of surprised but happy to receive the news. Speaking at the U.N. is a great honor.” 

Jessica Zufall, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of Special Citizens, recalls telling Adam about this honor. “It was a wonderful exchange. I don’t think I will ever forget how his face completely lit up, he was so happy. For me, it allowed me to watch the dream of someone we support come true and to me, there is nothing more fulfilling than that.”

"Being asked to speak at the United Nations' World Autism Awareness Day event two years in a row is an incredible honor. It means that people are paying attention. It means that people know people with Autism have something significant to contribute to the conversation and should be brought to every table and meeting where their service requirements are being negotiated. As an agency, we are positively overwhelmed to be invited to and participate in this dialogue where we will have the attention of the world."

Jessica Zufall, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer

Adam will participate in a segment called “Bridging the Inequality Gap.” This discussion will focus on reducing inequality and discrimination by empowering persons with Autism and promoting their inclusion and full participation in society. 

Adam will discuss these topics with Saima Wazed Hossain, Chairperson of the National Advisory Committee on Autism, and Molly Ola Pinney, Founder of Global Autism Project. Kahraman Haliscelik, U.N. Resident Correspondent will moderate this discussion.

World Autism Awareness Day has been observed on April 2, every year since 2008. 

When asked what does World Autism Awareness Day mean to him, Lieberman stated, “There are public ways of gaining attention for important causes and its interesting because we are trying to get attention for something that even experts do not fully understand. Yet it is important for people to promote their own understanding, and also to promote the general knowledge about Autism.”

The U.N. continues to host an event like this yearly, showing the importance of Autism Awareness. “I think it is important because the people on the Autism Spectrum are an important and often-misunderstood part of society. Having an event at the U.N. like this helps to encourage more understanding and more action towards inclusion in society,” said Lieberman.

This is the second year in a row that a person receiving services from Special Citizens will be a guest speaker at the U.N. Zufall stated, “Being asked to speak at the United Nations’ World Autism Awareness Day event two years in a row is an incredible honor. It means that people are paying attention. It means that people know people with Autism have something significant to contribute to the conversation and should be brought to every table and meeting where their service requirements are being negotiated. As an agency, we are positively overwhelmed to be invited to and participate in this dialogue where we will have the attention of the world.”

Lieberman is excited to take on the challenge of speaking at the U.N. He stated, “It means that people are recognizing the value of what I have to offer in terms of tackling the issues that are relevant to people on the Autism Spectrum, and to people in society dealing with people on the Autism Spectrum. It also means I am challenged myself to come up with new ways of thinking about these issues.”

Zufall is excited that Lieberman will have this opportunity. She stated, “I think Adam is an excellent choice for this great honor because Adam is gentle, brilliant and has a sophisticated manner in which to articulate what it means to be him, how he is affected by the world around him and how he wants to impact that world through his vision.” 

Lieberman, a Queens College graduate in 1992 with a Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science, hopes to serve as an inspiration to anyone who hears what he has to say at the U.N. “Of course everyone is different, and I am not typical of anyone either on or off the Spectrum. It does mean that people with Autism can do things people would not expect them be able to do,” says Lieberman.

This event will take place on Friday, April 1, 2016 from 10am-1pm, at the United Nations Trusteeship Council. For more information, please call 212-643-2663. For more information about Special Citizens, please visit www.specialcitizens.org.