In my 7 years of working in the Special Needs industry, I have seen firsthand how the prevalence of Autism is on the rise. It is not just a phenomenon in other countries, but it is happening here in Malaysia as well. But the question is, are we ready for it? Are we well-equipped to include these individuals in our society?
Let’s start with parent training. Being a parent is hard enough, but being a parent with a child with special needs is a completely different ball game. I have witnessed parents exhausted from dealing with their child’s unknown tantrums and emotional outbursts. Some parents even require mental health care attention due to the stress of caring for their children. Unfortunately, there is not enough training provided to these parents, and they are expected to learn as they go along.
The government is doing something to address this issue, with initiatives such as GENIUS KURNIA, PDK, and inclusive classes. However, these efforts are not enough to meet the needs of the growing number of special needs children. I recently learned that one of my clients is entering PPKI, and there are 150 special needs students with different needs in the class. With only two teachers handling 30 students each, it feels like a village for the teacher to manage.
This brings me to the next point: teacher training. Expecting government teachers to know how to handle every student with different needs is unrealistic. Even for myself, as a specialist in handling children with Autism and ADHD, it is still challenging. It requires a certain set of skills, patience, and experience that not every teacher possesses.
Finally, therapy. It is not uncommon for parents with special needs children to seek therapy. Speech therapy, Occupational Therapy, ABA therapy, and other non-evident therapies are often utilized, taking advantage of the desperation of parents seeking solutions. Unfortunately, government-provided therapy is usually cheaper and may not meet the needs of children with Autism. On the other hand, private therapy may be too expensive for some families to afford. Integrating therapists into the school or healthcare system may help resolve this issue.
In conclusion, we need to be better equipped to include individuals with special needs, particularly Autism, in our society. This requires more extensive parent training, teacher training, and better access to affordable therapy. It is a daunting task, but we owe it to our children to ensure they have the support and resources they need to thrive.