One for the album: Najib and Clarence posing for a photo after the official opening of the International Seminar on Autism 2014 in Putrajaya. With them is Clarence’s mother Joyce Lim.
PUTRAJAYA: The first National Centre of Excellence for Autism, scheduled to be fully operational in Kuala Lumpur by May next year, is set to change the landscape of special education in Malaysia.
Also known as the Permata Kurnia project, the centre will provide early intervention and early childhood special education to 300 children with autism aged between two and six years old. This would be the first-ever project for children with disabilities to be fully funded by the Government, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
“It will also be the first-ever project where a multidisciplinary team, consisting of early educators, speech therapists and occupational therapists, work together to provide a holistic service to children with autism.
“This project will serve as a benchmark in implementing autism service-provision best practices which we hope will be a model for future centres,” Najib said in his opening speech at the International Seminar on Autism Malaysia 2014 here yesterday.
He said the profound impact of the developmental disorder on families and nations was great as the number of autism cases had been rising at an alarming rate.
From three to four cases for every 10,000 births, the prevalence of autism in advanced nations was now one for every 68 births, said Najib.
Various researches have also highlighted the importance of early intervention for children with autism, with one suggesting that the cost of providing lifelong support would triple for every child who has not learn to be independent during the formal schooling years.
“It is important to note that Malaysia aims to become a fully developed nation by the year 2020 and to achieve this aim, one of the objectives that we have agreed is to ensure inclusive education, whereby children with disabilities shall receive education in the same manner as their typically developing peers.
“With proper infrastructure, the right curriculum and trained teachers, children with autism along with their peers will be an asset to the nation and their families in the future,” Najib said.
Inclusive education is also part of the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Children and Declaration on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Both have been ratified by Malaysia.
The two-day international seminar on autism here was attended by more than 1,000 participants from over 30 countries, including dignitaries such as the first ladies from Sudan, Sri Lanka, Albania and Morocco.
Also present were Najib’s wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, who is patron of both the seminar and the Permata programme, as well as Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and his wife Puan Sri Noorainee Abdul Rahman.
Earlier in the opening ceremony, autistic pianist Clarence Kang wowed the crowd with his self-taught skills in playing the musical instrument.
According to a blog post written by his mother, Kang, 16, was already capable of reading difficult musical scores by the time he started formal musical training in 2008, a feat which a regular student may take years to achieve.
Kang’s extraordinary talent attracted requests for his performances as well as media attention, including a feature article on his success published in The Star on July 27, 2011.
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