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The Humanitarian Crisis in Ukraine and the Autism Community

The war and continuing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine can be especially challenging for Ukrainian families with disabilities including autism.  How are families with autism managing internal displacement within Ukraine, whether sheltering at home or in bomb shelters, or adjusting to life as refugees in other countries? How can we improve the fate of those in institutional care settings and group homes?

Many autistic individuals face increased difficulty coping with the chaos caused by war, which can include sensory overload from shelling and explosions, stress caused by unfamiliar, loud, crowded environments, disruption in routine and daily environment, fears for their safety and for the lives of family members (particularly those who stay behind to defend Ukraine), lack of appropriate support services, and overall terrifying conditions for themselves and their families. Many individuals on the spectrum are unable to access emergency communications and unable to benefit from humanitarian aid aimed at the general population. As a result, these individuals may face great difficulty with evacuating the area, may be delayed in fleeing, or may be left behind entirely.

Sunflowers in front of a Ukrainian flag

Photographer: Carolina Cabral/Bloomberg via Getty Images

We share the following links and resources to increase awareness of the plight of families and individuals with autism during this crisis and provide more information about how to offer assistance. This page will be updated periodically as the situation evolves and new resources are published.

10/03/2023 An autistic Ukrainian boy lived by routine. Then the Russians upended his world.
Wendell Steavenson with Marta Rodionova
The Economist
06/13/2023 Ukraine children with disabilities struggle for therapy abroad
France 24
12/2/2022 Helping Children with Disabilities in Wartime Ukraine

Support for Ukrainian Refugees: Supporting autistic people in crisis situations

European Council of Autistic People (EUCAP)

Autism Unity (Supporting Ukrainian Children with Autism)

Autism Unity

A care center for Ukraine’s disabled deals with the trauma of occupation

Miriam Berger, Kostiantyn Khudov, and Whitney Leaming
The Washington Post
7/22/2022 Parents With Disabled Children Find Support From a HIAS Partner in Poland Betsy Joles, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society Blog

Resources for Autistic Individuals and their Families Impacted by War and Displacement

School of Education, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, and Allied Health of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
6/9/2022 UNC Team creates materials to help autistic children and youth coping with war Michele Lynn & Michael Hobbs, University of North Carolina at
Chapel Hill School of Education
5/31/2022 Impact of War on Autistic Children in Ukraine St. John’s University

Sebastopol humanitarian finds his niche serving autism community in Ukraine

Mary Callahan, The Press Democrat


How War and Displacement Traumatize People With Autism

Erik Raschke, Psychology Today


Advice & Guidance: Ukrainian Refugees (Information for Ukrainian refugees and for families hosting Ukrainian refugees)


Three local women headed to Eastern Europe to support autistic Ukrainian refugees


AE member organisations supporting autistic people in Ukraine

Autism Europe

Researchers, advocates rush to aid autistic Ukrainians

Laura Dattaro, Spectrum News
4/17/2022 Upper Valley effort to aid Ukraine starts with adult diapers Liz Sauchelli, Valley News
4/16/2022 Sebastopol dad, humanitarian headed to Poland to aid Ukrainian families with autistic children Mary Callahan, The Press Democrat
4/12/2022 North East Autism Society head to Poland to help vulnerable children who’ve fled war in Ukraine Sam Volpe, Chronicle Live (UK)

Stanford Autism Project for Ukraine

Stanford Autism Center at Packard Children’s Hospital

3/30/2022 People with disabilities feel trapped in Ukraine as war continues CBC Radio – Canada
3/29/2022 Appeal for help as Ukrainians with special needs arrive in Ireland Conor Hunt, Raidió Teilifís Éireann, Ireland’s National Public Service Media
3/28/2022 Support for autistic people in Ukraine Autism Europe
3/25/2022 The Unspoken Plight of Autistic People in War Torn Ukraine Emily Ansell Elfer, Autism Parenting Magazine
3/25/2022 EDF and NADP request a meeting with Commissioner Dalli to discuss EU actions to support children and adults with disabilities in the Ukraine war European Disability Forum (EDF)
3/21/2022 Protecting Children With Special Needs From War in Ukraine Sarah Ferguson, UNICEF
3/19/2022 Support for Neurodiverse People in Ukraine Frist Center for Autism and Innovation, Vanderbilt University
3/16/2022 Call for Humanitarian Aid in Ukraine Katarzyna Chawarska, PhD
3/15/2022 My hope for Ukrainians with autism Chrystina Dolyniuk, Spectrum News
3/14/2022 National Statement: Autism Society of America Addresses the Humanitarian Crisis in Ukraine The Autism Society of America
3/12/2022 Escaping the horror in Ukraine is not an option for many disabled children and their families Ivana Kottasová and Yulia Kesaieva, CNN
3/8/2022 Millions with disabilities ‘abandoned’ in Ukraine, charities fear Rebecca Thomas,May Bulman, Independent
3/7/2022 Letter by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) International Task Force requesting urgent federal funding for organizations for persons with disabilities in Ukraine Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) International Task Force
3/3/2022 Call to ensure the protection of Ukrainian autistic people Autism Europe
3/1/2022 This Ukrainian woman and her son with autism fled Donbas when Russia attacked in 2014. Now, they’re seeking refuge once again Li Cohen, CBS News
3/1/2022 Autism Awareness Ukraine Child.UA Association
3/1/2022 Urgent Action: Protect People with Disabilities and Children in Ukraine’s Orphanages Disability Rights International

The views expressed in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the NLM Family Foundation.

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