Government set to expand support for those with autism


KUALA LUMPUR: There has been a lack of support for those with autism beyond their teens and the government intends to address this concern, says Hannah Yeoh.

The Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister said plans were in the pipeline to seek partnerships with other ministries on how to support those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) beyond their schooling years.

Yeoh said they would first approach the Human Resources Ministry and then the Agricultural and Agro-based Industries Ministry to champion the agenda of the ASD community.

“We see the needs of those with autism as a lot of focus is given on early intervention but not much activity after they complete secondary education at ages 17 or 18.

“The responsibility of caring for those with autism should not fall solely on our ministry,” she said at the World Autism Awareness Day yesterday.

Yeoh said they would hold dialogues with other ministries to see what facilities and assistance could be offered to those with autism beyond early education.

“Whether it is in jobs related to agriculture, job matching or job coaching in other careers under the Human Resources Ministry, we are considering all these suggestions,” she said.

Although the Welfare Department registered about 22,000 people with autism, she said the actual numbers were higher.

Statistics showed that one in 68 children actually has autism.

“The ratio is almost one in every class. Since it is such a wide spectrum, we need more people to come on board to support families and their children,” she said.

Yeoh said some of the recent government initiatives to support the cause include the announcement by the police of a new standard operating procedure to deal with suspects with autism and the National Youth Skills Institute’s under the Youth and Sports Ministry accepting autistic students starting in 2020.

She said they also created a subcategory for autism in its People with Disabilities card this year to enable more specific assistance to be given to the community.

However, she said the government’s bid for inclusivity should not just be limited to autism but other differently abled people as well.

“One of the efforts that we are trying to do for people with disabilities (PWDs) is to increase the number of civil servants who are differently abled,” she said.

Yeoh said the government set a target of having PWDs comprise 1% of the civil service workforce.