Look for the signs

LIKE all children, those with special needs experience the same physical development and must be taught sex education.

Assoc Prof Dr Padma A. Rahman said parents of special needs children, however, face an additional challenge – preparing them for marriage.

The Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) Centre for Occupational Therapy Studies and Faculty of Health Sciences head, whose work focuses on special needs children, said visual cues, illustrations and cartoons with simple and short words, help.

“Everything has to be concise.

“Some higher functioning special needs individuals also yearn to be in a relationship.

“When they see older siblings marrying, they would ask their parents about marriage as well,” she said.

And due to their disabilities, those with special needs are easier targets of sexual harassment, she added.

Behavioural change, she said, is a sign that something bad may have happened.

“Parents need to take note of how they are acting so that they will know if something is wrong.

“Special needs children tend to tell stories. Non-verbal children will imitate what others have done to them while the verbal ones may say something like, ‘Uncle said if I touch this part (of the body), I will get something’.

“Some children will start to have tantrums and anger issues. They will either scream more or keep to themselves altogether,” she said, adding that special needs children are often misunderstood.

People think they behave differently due to their disabilities but it is because they have been harmed, she said.

“Parents must look out for telltale signs, like their children’s itchy or sore genitals, and immediately investigate if something seems out of the ordinary.

“Seek help from those who work with special needs children if you are unsure of what to do,” she advised.

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