Long waitlist for children to access autism programmes, construction for KAA new education block to start mid-Oct

Fatimah (centre) holding a meeting with representatives from KAA and DaSWK.

KUCHING, Oct 11: There are now about 50 children on the waitlist to get into Kuching Autistic Association’s (KAA) support programmes.

According to a press statement, KAA president Dr Catherine Chen disclosed this during a meeting with Minister of Women, Childhood and Community Wellbeing Development Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah at the latter’s office in Bangunan Baitulmakmur II here today.

Dr Chen also informed the minister that the construction to extend a three-storey education block under KAA with an approved grant of RM4.179 million from the Sarawak government will commence in mid-October.

Currently, KAA has 116 students and 29 staff comprising 26 teachers and three administrators.

Among the programmes the association runs to help children with autism include Elementary Instruction Programme for children below 13 years of age, Secondary Instruction Programme for children aged 13-18, and Sunshine Hub Sheltered Workshop for individuals above 18 years of age.

According to Dr Chen, 589 children aged 18 years and below were diagnosed with autism, a brain development disorder, in Malaysia in 2021. Among the difficulties faced by people with autism include poor eye contact, failing to respond to their name, limited facial expressions, inability to comprehend facial expressions and body language as well as in communication.

However, she emphasised that research shows that early intervention could lead to positive outcomes later in life for people with autism.

Fatimah was also briefed on the construction of a new building for Dyslexia Association of Sarawak (DaSWK) with an approved grant of RM3.954 million, which is expected to commence once the tender process is completed by end of this month.

The project involves a new learning and resource centre with 10 classrooms, assessment rooms, office, staff room, multipurpose hall and a hostel.

DaSWK representative Dr Haironi Yusoff said that currently they are providing support for 21 students with five staff.

Programmes DaSWK runs include English Literacy in SK Bario for 10 days and Bahasa Malaysia (BM) Literacy at Henry Gurney School in Puncak Borneo Prison which had started on July 7 and is expected to end on Dec 28 this year.

With 13 participants, DaSWK had visited the Henry Gurney School 22 times so far.

Dyslexia is a learning disability which causes difficulty in reading and spelling. It can also be associated with other conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism as sometimes a child may have these conditions in addition to dyslexia.

Both associations are committed to enhance efforts in early intervention programmes to help children overcome their disabilities. — DayakDaily