Autistic children: Felt but inaccessible


Translated by LIM LIY EE/Sin Chew Daily
17th April 2010

Autistic children have been described as "the children of the stars."

A clinical psychologist, Huang Wei Xiong pointed out during an interview with Sin Chew Daily that these people were called "the children of the stars" because their families could feel their existence but they could not reach out to them, like the stars in the sky.

Autistic people do not like to connect with people and they refuse to be hugged by others as they would feel uncomfortable or even uncontrollable.

In addition, these children could have difficulties learning a language. As a result, most of them are still unable to talk after reaching certain age levels.

Many parents might believe their children would eventually open their mouths and speak as time goes on, without putting in any effort to help them learn .

It is therefore important that parents should understand the basics of their children’s development at different stages of life.

Huang: 0 to 5 are the golden age

"As a medical personnel myself, my greatest regret is that a child was only detected as an autistic after he got 20. There was nothing we could do to help, as the body structure of a 20-year-old adult has fully developed."

Huang added, the golden treatment period was in between 0 to 5 years old, and the parents should pay attention to the abnormal behaviours, sluggish movements or learning difficulties of children during this period and consult a doctor accordingly.

However, he emphasised that it was crucial for parents to accompany their children as they explore their future together.

Learning the symptoms first

He said the most important thing we should learn is to first understand the symptoms of autism. A child’s growing process is divided into four stages namely the limbs, IQ, social and communication skills. The parents must know whether their children are able to listen, absorb, as well as think, express and communicate.

Huang also pointed out that the unique characteristic of a special or autistic child is that the disorder could happen to his or her sensory integration. Luckily, this problem could be solved before the age of six.

Therefore, it is wrong for parents living in the cities not to allow their infant children to crawl on the floor, as the body's small muscles need to have some exercises in order to maintain their flexibility.

Some parents would get nervous with their children's poor writing skills but fail to understand that this has been due to the poor development of their muscles. Moreover, if the children's fingers are not moved frequently, the third joints of their fingers would easily become obese and this could cause the children to refuse to write as they would get tired holding the pencils.

Eligible for disability benefits

According to Huang, once a child is diagnosed as an autistic child, he or she will be eligible for disability benefits, and parents are encouraged to apply for them.

Another good news is that the parents would get medical rebate of RM1,000 and would be eligible to enjoy some additional tax relief after they have registered with the welfare department with their children's medical reports. In addition, they would also be entitled to free medical treatment at government hospitals.

If they are studying, they could apply for a grant of RM500 a month (for government schools only) or an alternative of RM40 to RM80 a month (for private schools) through their schools . They would also be allowed two years of preparatory period, meaning they can repeat their classes for up to two years and would be arranged to study in special schools if they fail to keep up with the progress at normal schools.

Their education

Huang explained that besides studying in special schools, academic requirements for autistic children to proceed to secondary schools and colleges are also lowered so long as they pass at least one subject in PMR and SPM.

They are allowed to repeat their SPM or sit for government exams later than ordinary students, such as sitting for PMR at the age of 20. Besides, the teachers will also mark their papers in different ways.

However, if they fail to meet the minimum requirements, there are still five relevant training centres in Malaysia for them to pick up a special skill.

Those lacking the ability to work are entitled to benefits of RM200 to RM400 a month.