Everyone deserves a chance, even individuals diagnosed with autism. While it exist among us, not everyone knows what is autism and the elements that it carries.
According to autismspeaks.org, autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a range of conditions characterised by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences.
Among the symptoms of autism are, social challenges, communication difficulties, repetitive behaviours, genetic disorders, seizure disorders, sleep dysfunction, sensory processing problems, and pica (tendency to eat things that are not food), however symptoms vary according to child.
While they come with disadvantages, these special individual comes with their special ability. Getting to know a child, one would realised that like any other, they also possess certain abilities and talents. A chance is all they need to show.
Last year, I interviewed two different mothers, with an autistic son each on their hand. While both sons relay autistic symptoms, one of them were able to memorise and draw well. While the other were able to tidy up, and clean.
Reaching their teenage years, both are currently coping well within society. When asked what were the mothers’ secret to taking care of them? They answered early intervention is important to ensure autistic individuals grow up well.
Acknowledging and realising the children’s disability can help with their future. Knowing this, both mothers sent their sons to the Kuching Autistic Association Centre located at Batu Kawa, Kuching since a young age.
Kuching Autistic Association (KAA) (formerly known as the Sarawak Autistic Association) was formed by a group of parents of children with autism and professionals on January 18, 1998 and was registered as a non-government organisation (NGO) on May 6 the same year.
KAA provides one-to-one therapy and training, usually for two hours daily, or on alternate days. Students aged 4 to 12 years old attend KAA’s Elementary Intervention Programme (EIP). The aim of this programme is to enable children with autism to learn how to communicate, develop social skills, learn personal hygiene skills and learn cognitive skills such as reading, writing and arithmetic. Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) is the main therapy practiced at the centre. Structured teaching based on TEACCH principles, Gym exercises for gross and fine motor development, Play Therapy, Art, Group activities, Indoor and Outdoor activities are other intervention programmes implemented at the Centre.
The centre is also equipped with a Snoozelen Room, which helps to soothe and calm “out of sync” children as they watch bubbles float inside the bubble lamps, and watch coloured patterns from the strobe lights, while listening to soft background music.
Older students, aged 13 to 17 years old attend the Secondary Intervention Programme (SIP). In this programme, students continue learning basic academic skills. In addition, they are taught daily living skills, to enable them to take steps toward independent living within a sheltered environment. They also participate in some pre-vocational activities e.g. making craft items, planting vegetables, car wash, laundry, cooking and house-keeping skills.
KAA has a Vocational Training Programme for adults with autism. These students produce artwork, beadwork, hand craft cards and bookmarks, bake cookies and other items for sale. They are also trained to use photocopy machines, laminating machines, and to do sorting and packaging work.
KAA’s annual run this year will be held on April 28 with its starting point at the MBKS Building Compound. This year’s theme is ‘See the Ability’, a continuation of their previous years’ themes, starting from Awareness (2016), Understanding (2017), and Acceptance (2018).
With this year’s hope for action, KAA hopes to raise more awareness pertaining autistic individuals. As many of them from the centre are growing up, and entering the workforce, there are not many job opportunities for them.
When speaking to committee member Stephanie Goh, she shared that people’s perception towards them are negative as they were taught only of their symptoms and issues raised from it. “But, nobody emphasise on their strengths,” she laments.
The run this year is all about showing the public that these autistic individuals can also do what others can. Hence, runners will be able to spot several autistic diagnosed runners running among them.
For those who do not want to participate in the run themselves can also look into sponsoring an autistic child to run. Aside from that, the public can also help by purchasing merchandises sold by KAA at their respective booth as these merchandises are specially made by the KAA’s autistic children and adult, and all proceed goes directly to them.
There are two distances for the run. The 7KM run will flag off at 6.30am while the 3KM run will begin at 6.45am.
Registrations can be done at KAA booth, and this coming February 23 – 24 weekend. The booth will be at The Spring Shopping Mall, Kuching and Open University Malaysia, Kuching’s open day. For those who are unable to visit the booth, can also find the convenience of registering online at www.autism19.eventRunner.com.my.
For more inquiries, feel free to contact the event’s runner hotline at 016-7909076, KAA’s office at 082-686363, or reach Stephanie at 016-5791906.