All children deserve a chance

Those with special needs must have access to mainstream schools, and inclusive mainstream schools are the best way to overcome discrimination.

LAST month was Autism Awareness Month and many events were organised by various groups to inform the public about autism. I attended quite a few events, but mostly in the Klang Valley.

Some of the media, including this newspaper, took part too. Various articles were published, and interviews broadcasted, to tell the public about autism.

All these are very good to see. I applaud everyone who took part in the initiative.

Without getting too technical, autism is a “spectrum disorder” which means the severity of symptoms ranges from a mild learning and social disability to severe impairment, with multiple problems and unusual behaviour.

The disorder may occur alone, or with accompanying problems such as mental retardation or seizures.

Autism is not a rare disorder.

Its cases are found throughout the world, in families of all economic, social, and racial backgrounds.

Doctors, politicians and rubber tappers alike are known to have autistic children.

Looking back to when I was in primary school in Sekolah Kebangsaan Dato Ariffin Mohd Nam in Perlis, I think at least two to three of my schoolmates were actually autistic. But at that time, in early to mid 1980s, knowledge about autism was relatively lower.

And if you consider the fact that my primary school was in a rural area, halfway between Kangar and Padang Besar, I guess it is not surprising that the teachers were not yet well equipped to detect the condition.

Today, many things have changed. Parent and teacher awareness has increased tremendously. The government too has done a lot.

The successful International Seminar on Autism that was held in Putrajaya on April 22 – April 23 was just one example.

The Education Blueprint that guides the work of our Ministry of Education has a section dedicated to children with special needs.

It states a clear aim of making our schools inclusive.

The Blueprint acknowledges the 1994 Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education by saying that those with special needs must have access to mainstream schools and that mainstream schools with an inclusive orientation are the most effective means of overcoming discriminatory attitudes.

At Ideas, we too are trying to do our part. In early 2012, two friends, Mustaqeem Mahmood Radhi and Mohd Fakhri Noor Affandi, called me up suggesting we meet for some teh tarik.

by Wan Saiful Wan Jan.

Read more @ http://www.thestar.com.my/Opinion/Columnists/Thinking-Liberally/Profile/Articles/2014/05/13/All-children-deserve-a-chance/

Comments are closed.