THE Early Autism Project (EAP)together with UCSI University organised the Paint for Autism Project to encourage early diagnosis of the condition in conjunction with World Autism Awareness Day 2016.
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a condition that affects brain development, causing difficulties in social interaction and verbal as well as non-verbal communication.
EAP Malaysia programme director Jochebed Isaacs said diagnosed cases in Malaysia were increasing as parents were more aware of the condition and more willing to send their children for therapy.
Deborah Henry and an 11-year-old with autism hosting the World Autism Awareness Day 2016 programme.
“With early intervention, there is a 50% chance for those who undergo intensive Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) to catch up with children their age,” she said, when met at UCSI’s Cheras campus.
ABA is a type of therapy that trains children with autism to develop the language, social and living skills that they lack.
The Awareness Day activities included a dialogue session with parents of children with autism, a talk by clinical psychologist Dr Nan Huai, autism screening booths, live music by local musicians Kent Sim, David Soh and Samual Lopez, plus arts, crafts and games for children.
Around 80 UCSI students, mostly from its Psychology Department, volunteered to facilitate the event and got visitors to help paint a mural for the Paint for Autism Project.
Dr Nan, a visiting psychologist from EAP Wisconsin in the United States, shared the latest findings in autism research and dispelled myths about autism such as the idea that it was an emotional problem or something children would grow out of by themselves.
Everyone posing in front of the Paint For Autism mural at UCSI in Cheras.
“Early intervention is key, so children can build coping skills and do much better later in life,” she said.
Parents Yong Chee Kong, Dr Syamah Upawi and Steve Janssen spoke about the challenges of raising children diagnosed with autism, from figuring out if the child should be diagnosed to the social stigma of having autism.
Attendees and volunteers from UCSI working together to paint a mural for the Paint For Autism project.
“We realise people react strangely to our children when we go out. To those judging, know that these children are special in their own way and would not judge you,” said Janssen during the dialogue session moderated by former beauty queen Deborah Henry.
After the talks, the volunteer team revealed a mural made up of many segments, a nod to how puzzles are symbol for autism.