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France, Lagging Far Behind, to Present Autism Plan

French President Emmanuel Macron holds the hand of a boy with autism as they visit the Elysee Palace before the launching of a program to enhance the diagnosis and treatment of autism, in Paris, July 6, 2017. Macron will unveil a plan to help children with autism.

French President Emmanuel Macron is unveiling a long-awaited plan to help parents struggling to provide children on the autism spectrum with basic education and care.

Yet families and associations say the plan is unlikely to take the giant steps needed to catch France up with places like the United States, Canada, and other European countries.

Macron and his wife Brigitte are visiting a hospital and a nursery welcoming children with autism Thursday in the Normandy city of Rouen. The prime minister will release the autism plan publicly Friday.

Despite its lauded public health care system, France is shockingly behind the curve on autism. Only about 20 percent of children with autism in France go to school. Parents describe outdated psychotherapy practice and lack of training for teachers and medical staff.