A structured funding programme for special children is needed

IT is heartening to know that there is a push towards the setting up of a school for children affected with autism.

But the question is when, how and where will it be located, and would parents be charged for sending their children to the school?

There are many more questions about children affected with other severe disabilities and disorders, and how they can be helped too.

A report said there was a growing number of children being diagnosed with autism, attention deficit disorder and other developmental or physical disorders, and that it could be a challenge for parents to find the funding, para-professionals or even babysitters to watch kids whose needs were beyond the norm.

Some of those with attention deficit disorder are also often misunderstood in normal schools because there is a lack of special education teachers.

It is not always possible for children with disabilities to attend mainstream schools, though some argue they should.

It may also be hard for some mainstream schools to make the necessary adjustments for students with particular disabilities. Hence the reason why the school for autism may be set up here.

But whether children attend mainstream or special schools, children with disabilities have the right to the same educational opportunities like other children.

In Australia, this right is protected by law.

In other developed countries they have established a system in handling the special children needs.

Some parents with special children find it easier to migrate to developed countries because of the established system there.

Early intervention is key for special children but there are also some parents who hang on to denial, and the longer it takes for realisation, the child is not going to benefit.

A report said “early intervention in Malaysia is still in its infancy stages, although it has come far over the last few decades.'' Early intervention is critical to get the child assessed to determine her strengths, weaknesses and needs.

Locally, there has been progress made in this area, but again, more needs to be done to uplift the standards of these special children.

The Government in 2010 signed the Convention on Rights for people with disabilities. And it does provide benefits, there are medical professionals, some schools for special children.

However, what lacks is a concerted effort to address all the needs of these group.

A more structured approach would help so that those parents with special children do not have to go all around to get access to information and professional advice, funding and help.

Throughout the years, many foundations and corporations have also come forward to provide financial aid, but how many are really committed to the special children's group.

If there are, it is often done on an ad hoc basis.

There are over 382,216 people with disabilities (PWD) registered with the Welfare Department in the country. There are also 468 community based rehabilitation (CBR) centres in the country, operated mostly by parents with special children but funded by the Government and these centres have 20,184 PWDs.

Felda has also come forward to help special children by setting up 69 CBR in Felda settlement areas but the welfare department provides the operational cost.

There are many areas corporations can help to lift the lives of the specials, but it has to be a long term commitment, and, are they willing to walk that path?

The areas corporations can help include provision of skills training and making sure those trained have jobs and can fend for themselves, and also provide assistive learning devices.

Just by donating motorised wheelchairs would help so many special children to be mobile.

It is food for thought for the corporations, and hopefully in the coming budget the Government will also make an allocation for special children as this is needed if we are to move towards developed nation status. Our special children need to walk with us and not be left behind in a developed world.

Let us not forget that these special children have their strengths and abilities. It is about nurturing them so that they can walk the same road as our normal children, as they too have a right.

■ Deputy news editor B.K. Sidhu was mesmerised by Udit and Alka Yagnik's performance recently, thanks to Trishna Restaurant's Bedi & Neeta for bringing the duo here.

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