I WOULD like to congratulate the Prime Minister’s wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor for initiating the Permata Kurnia Autism Centre which will be ready by February 2015.
Providing appropriate intervention and having between 100 and150 children at the centre would be a good start. If it is successful, surely we would have more centres to cater to a larger group of children diagnosed with autism.
This also provides the opportunity for 25% to 50% of the children enrolled at the centre to progress and move to mainstream education, after all, that is one of the main aims of having an early intervention programme (EIP).
Having said that, there are many children currently enrolled at EIP centres who have improved in their overall development and have capabilities to be in a mainstream school with or without shadow-aides (personal learning assistants) and other additional support such as speech therapy.
Perhaps the authorities should check how many government and private schools are accepting these children? What are the percentages of students with special needs or learning difficulties entering mainstream schools? How are we supporting these children in a mainstream school? And most importantly, how are we maintaining consistency in intervention after receiving EIP?
It is great to see many parents are aware of EIP and have invested their money, time and effort to provide an early intervention for their children with the hope that the child would improve and eventually have access to mainstream education.
However, many parents are disappointed as certain public or private schools are not accepting their children when the child can or should be given a chance to receive mainstream education.
What happens next for these children? Do we totally ignore the child’s potential after receiving early intervention by sending them to special school or class instead of attending mainstream education? What can they do to earn a living when they grow up?
With the increasing rate of autism and other disorders, are we saying that we are keeping away 1 in 88 (children diagnosed with autism in the US) and 1 in 600 (children diagnosed with autism in Korea) aside doing nothing worthwhile and who will most likely end up being totally dependant on an adult to take care of them in the future?
There should be consistency and continuity of intervention after EIP in some cases, especially if the child is in the Autism Spectrum.
I have visited a few schools in the urban area and found that many schools do not accept these children.
Some schools have a quota to accept these children. There are a few reasons for this; however, the main reason is that they do not have appropriate resources to support these children.
A child might have a regress in behaviour, emotion and social or other areas if his or her needs are not met. It defeats the whole purpose of having the child in a mainstream school.
I hope the implementation of inclusive education under the education blueprint would provide a team of professionals which sometimes might include personal learning assistants/shadow aides with the knowledge of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) in each inclusive school. This would surely help bring out the full potential of a child till he or she completes mainstream education.
In this way the purpose of having EIP would be beneficial and can bring success to a child’s overall well-being in the mainstream schools.
Surely we would not want to let go of a potential Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Isaac Newton or Albert Einstein.