Haans-on guide for parents

PARENTING an autistic child is extremely demanding, and the lack of guidance and information can have a massive impact on the child’s development and ability to cope with real-life situations.

To highlight teaching techniques and offer an insight on the matter, a special project called Project Haans for Autism Awareness organised by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) students together with Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur was held.

The event, held at the medical centre, consisted of forums on the topic of parenting a child with autism as well as job coaching and inclusion. Additionally, a messy play demonstration by occupational therapists was conducted.

Event organiser and UKM postgraduate student from the Faculty of Education, Desiree Kaur, said, “Autism is a spectrum that manifests differently in each individual. UKM’s Faculty of Education (Special Education) course titled ‘Collaboration and Consultation in Education’ requires students to carry out a collaborative event with inclusive elements.

“Hence, the main purpose of this event is to collaborate with partners and provide a platform to share different perspectives for wider autism awareness and understanding. I am also a mother to a boy with autism and I hope Project Haans can be a guiding light or starting point for others out there who may be struggling for information.”Among the forum speakers were Nori Abdullah, co-founder of We Rock the Spectrum Ara Damansara, who is a mother to a boy with autism; and Mohd Adli Yahya, founder of Autism Café Project Malaysia, father to Luqman, a young man with autism.

They shared their journey as parents, the joys of parenting a special child and the challenges experienced.

Assoc Prof Dr Manisah Mohd Ali, a UKM lecturer whose area of study is Special Education, also shed light on the importance of inclusion from a young age, which could later help autistic children in gaining employment.

Also on hand was Mazayu Kasan, a qualified job coach who shared her role in helping youth with autism and other special needs gain employment.

Another panellist was Joshua Teow, who is autistic and presently working, thanks to the guidance of his job coach.

Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur’s consultant development and general paediatrician Dr Raja Juanita Raja Lope said, “It is important to understand the diagnostic process where autism is concerned.

“Since autism is a spectrum, it is an ongoing process. Acceptance is key to help a child on the spectrum achieve their full potential and hopefully, attain independence as adults.”

Occupational therapists from Sensory Play and Pantai Integrated Rehab joined forces to conduct a “messy play” session with children aged six years and below.

(Messy play is a type of sensory activity which is crucial in developing a child’s senses, gross motor, fine motor, cognitive and social as well as emotional skills.)

It also served as a demonstration to the attendees consisting of students, teachers and parents to young children.

Attendees were shown how to conduct simple activities in their own home or even in the classroom.

Another highlight of Project Haans was the bazaar organised by Autism Café Project that offered food items, cookies, handicrafts and T-shirts for sale.

Autism Café Project is a social enterprise that helps autistic youths start their own small business. Most youths with autism find it difficult to find permanent employment. Starting their own small business allows them to earn and eventually, support themselves financially.

Project Haans for Autism Awareness brought together various individuals, all of whom are passionate about raising awareness of autism. The organiser hopes this would turn into an annual event held in conjunction with Autism Awareness month in April.