Materia Medica Malaysiana

April 6, 2008

Special kids living in a world of their own

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 10:39 am

NST: A SURVEY has observed that one in every 625 Malaysian children is autistic.
The National Autism Society of Malaysia (Nasom), however, believes the survey just represents the tip of an iceberg.
“I’m not convinced (of the figures), because each time I walk into a school, I can see some students displaying autistic symptoms,” said society chairman Teh Beng Choon.
Some of the symptoms are inappropriate laughing, behaving in a stand-off manner, apparent insensitivity to pain, adversity to cuddling, extreme crying tantrums, unusual eye contact and uneven motor skills.
Autism is a lifelong complex neurobiological disorder which affects 35 million people worldwide.
It blocks the ability of a child to communicate and inhibits emotional and social development.
It is associated with rigid routines or repetitive behaviours such as obsessively following schedules, or arranging belongings in a very specific way.
Because of their language deficit, a lot of autistic children do not talk, said Teh.
“They may be able to sing complete songs, but they don’t talk.
“Some never develop any useful communication skills.
“They are not able to differentiate between ‘you’ and ‘I’, or ‘they’ and ‘we’.
“They also cannot grasp the concept of yesterday, today and tomorrow.”
Some autistic children have sensory problems.
They tear out the label at the back of their clothes because it is too ticklish or cannot stand the sound from an air-conditioner.
Most also have no comprehension of social rules.
For example, instead of using a spoon, an autistic boy might just eat using his hands.
Each case is different and as the child grows, his autistic characteristics might change.
Autism affects boys more than girls and there is no known cure.
Currently, it is not known how many Malaysians are afflicted with the development disorder, as there is no national registry available.
However, if a US survey last year, which found one in every 150 children to be autistic, were taken as a standard, there would be more than 3,000 new cases each year in Malaysia.
Teh said: “That’s a pretty scary thought. Society should be concerned.
“Often, an autistic adult ends up in the welfare system. So eventually, society has to bear the cost.”
In recent years, the expense of caring for an autistic individual has risen by leaps and bounds.
In the United States, it was recently estimated that the additional lifetime cost of an autistic person stands at more than US$3 million (RM9.7 million).
Although the cost of living in Malaysia is much lower, the additional cost of raising an autistic child is often beyond the means of an average Malaysian family.
A parent of a 5-year-old autistic child reported that her family spends about RM1,500 on remedial therapies every month.
Speech therapy and physiotherapy cost as much as RM100 per session, and a child needs at least one session a week.
Working parents also often find themselves torn between career and caring for their autistic child.
A mother, who has to pick up her child every day at Nasom before it closes, has been ticked off by her superior for leaving at 5pm sharp, says Teh.
“There is just not enough support for parents with special children.
“There should be government policies in place.
“Depending on people’s sympathy is not the way to go.”
For more information, contact Nasom at 4, Jalan Chan Chin Mooi off Jalan Pahang, Kuala Lumpur. Tel: 03-40223744; Fax: 03-40224495

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