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By Geryl Ogilvy
KUCHING, March 19: The Sarawak government is collaborating with Petronas to set up a one-stop centre for children with special needs sometime this year.
Minister of Welfare, Community Well-being, Women, Family and Childhood Development Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah said the national oil giant had allocated RM4 million for the centre this year, as part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR).
The Petronas budget will also cover human resources, preparation, running and maintenance of the facility.
Her ministry is carrying out studies on the concept and will prepare a proposal for Petronas by the end of next month. Several sites in Kuching have been inspected for the proposed centre.
For a start, the proposed centre will cater to two types of disabilities, one of which is autism, which has shown a high prevalence rate worldwide. The second focus area is still being deliberated.
“We want to provide holistic, intensive and specialised rehabilitation services to children with special needs to get the correct diagnosis for early intervention.
“We would not be able to focus on all types of disabilities for now … depending on the budget. But we will look into the needs of society while closing the gap in Sarawak,” she told reporters after chairing the Sarawak Early Childhood Development Council meeting at Baitulmakmur Complex here today.
She said the ministry was also looking at early intervention programmes at the renowned Permata Kurnia as part of its research.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), one in every 160 children worldwide has an autism spectrum disorder, with boys four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls.
Fatimah said the number of autistic children in Sarawak could not be ascertained as not all were registered or diagnosed.
“The range of autism is very wide and, sometimes, autism can be mistaken for attention deficit disorder.
“That is why we need to set up this rehabilitation centre to help early diagnosis and prevention so that the children can take care of themselves and adapt to the society as they grow older,” she emphasised.
With regards to the state government’s plan to build three primary schools for special needs children across Sarawak, Fatimah said her ministry was currently conducting studies on the type of rehabilitation, concepts as well as the best practices and models of such facilities worldwide.
She added that the first school would be set up here.
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg, when making the announcement on March 3, said a piece of land had been identified in the city to build the special school, which could adopt the Australian model. — DayakDaily