IPOH, Sept 22 ― Parents with children diagnosed with autistic need to take proactive and positive actions to improve and enhance their child, a psychologist with the National Autism Society of Malaysia (Nasom) said.

R. Geetha said autistic children can have their basic life skills, emotional behaviour, communication, social skills, learning and play skills developed.

“Parents must refer to a specialist for diagnosis, and based on expert's recommendations, send their child diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to the recommended programmes.

“In general, children with ASD need several therapy programmes such as Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Early Intervention Program, Play-based Therapy, Drama and  Arts Program, Behavioural Therapy and Social Skills Training.”

In an email interview with Malay Mail, Geetha, based at Nasom Setia Alam, said children with ASD can be managed with continuous guidance and training from a multidisciplinary team to help improve and develop their skills.

“The key to striving for the progress of children with ASD is for parents to be patient and enthusiastic.”

She said under the Child Act 2011, every child must be given protection by a caregiver or guardian.

“Parents must safeguard the rights of children with ASD by providing for their needs.

Any action due to personal choice or parental interest that avoids opportunities for the learning or well-being of an ASD child is wrong and is considered a parent failing to be a responsible parent.

“Children with ASD are categorised as having learning difficulties meaning their children need extra monitoring and care from caregivers,” she added.

Asked how parents of normal children should educate their child when meeting an autistic child, Geetha said a normal child will usually have difficulty engaging children with ASD.

“Children with ASD experience deficiencies in social interaction and communication including having repetitive stereotypical behaviours, which create aloofness or withdrawal characteristic that reduces social engagement in children with ASD with peers or others.

“Therefore, friendships with children with ASD require a lot of understanding about the nature of children with ASD compared to other children.”

Peers or children with similar age groups need inclusion to allow them to socialise with a child with ASD and treat them as a friend.

“Social interaction with typically developing children will be an advantage and opportunity for children with ASD to improve social skills but require training or guidance for them both to accept and include friends with differences (children with ASD) in developing peer groups.”

“Social acceptance is the most important component of creating an inclusive and ASD -friendly community.”

Wan Jamila Wan Shaiful Bahri (right) and Alprooundation chief executive officer Ostwin Paw Yen Thng. ― Picture courtesy of Alpro Foundation
Wan Jamila Wan Shaiful Bahri (right) and Alprooundation chief executive officer Ostwin Paw Yen Thng. ― Picture courtesy of Alpro Foundation

Nasom and what they do

Chairman Julian Wong said Nasom is a parent-based society.

“It is Malaysia's first and only national-level voluntary society/charitable organisation dedicated to the cause of autism.

“It offers lifespan services and support for all ages from toddlers to teenagers and adults on ASD.”

Formed in 1986 by a group of parents and professionals with the aim to provide lifespan services to the community of persons on the ASD, Nasom was registered on March 3 1987 as a national charitable organisation and strives to provide a range of support services to assist children and individuals on the ASD and their immediate family members.

“Nasom is also an ASD service provider with 15 intervention centres nationwide. It is currently supporting some 400 children on the ASD and more than 1,000 parents.”

“Each Nasom centre is supported by the centre's parents through the Parent ― Teacher Support Group (PTSG) through various fundraising activities and awareness for the growth and sustainability of the centre.”

Being a non-profit charitable organisation, Wong said Nasom depended heavily on donations and contributions from the public and corporate sector to ensure that its Autism related initiatives, activities and programmes were running.

“Like any other organisations and even businesses, Nasom is equally affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic has caused various challenges in carrying out fundraising initiatives and activities as the government imposed various movement control orders where physical activities could not be held.”

Nasom centres, Wong said, were also affected as they had to be closed due to the various movement control order imposed.

“Nasom students were the most affected as their development programme were greatly affected.

Online learning is not as effective as physical classes for children on the ASD,” he said, adding that parents who lost their jobs pulled their children from Nasom programs as they were not able to afford the monthly fees. 

“However, with the efforts by Nasom's team and board members, we were still able to gather donations and sponsors to keep operations afloat and we are so very thankful to these donors who supported us through these tough times.” 

Alpro Foundation collaborates with award-winning savant artist to raise funds for the autism community in Malaysia

Alpro Foundation, the charity arm of the pharmacy chain Alpro Pharmacy has collaborated with acclaimed Malaysian savant artist, Wan Jamila Wan Shaiful Bahri or more popularly known as artjamila to raise funds for the autism community in the country.

The initiative saw Alpro Foundation launching the limited edition ‘Alpro X ARTJAMILA’ wet wipes featuring three unique illustrations done by Wan Jamila and every bundle of wet wipes sold would see 60 cents donated to Nasom.

To date, Alpro has sold over 21,000 packets of the product and have successfully raised around RM13,000 in support of children from the Autism community. 

Alpro Foundation's limited edition ‘Alpro X ARTJAMILA’ wet wipes. ― Picture courtesy of Alpro Foundation
Alpro Foundation's limited edition ‘Alpro X ARTJAMILA’ wet wipes. ― Picture courtesy of Alpro Foundation

Foundation chief executive officer Ostwin Paw Yen Thng said the organisation felt privileged to collaborate with an inspiring individual like Wan Jamila who is also an active advocate for autism awareness in Malaysia.

“Wan Jamila is the perfect example to show that children with Autism are capable of achieving amazing things in life when empowered with the right opportunity and freedom to express themselves.

“We are glad that this project, which was dedicated for the autism community, was well-received by the public.

“As a community-centric organisation, we are privileged to be in a position to bring change for the betterment of the community and we will continue to channel efforts specifically in the areas of children’s welfare and education.”

Wan Jamila meanwhile said she was proud and happy to be a part of this initiative with Alpro.

Foundation and being able to contribute to Nasom's efforts to further develop the potential of people with Autism through educational services. 

“My message for everyone is to understand that autism is not a disability, it is just a different ability,” she said.

To support Alpro Foundation’s cause and keep up with all the latest updates on the ongoing campaigns and charitable efforts, please follow www.alpro-foundation.com or via mobile (019- 3881923).

To know more about Nasom, visit their Facebook page.