Education Ministry drafting policy to address learning disabilities

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The Education Ministry is drafting a policy to address issues pertaining to learning disabilities such as autism and dyslexia, among others. Deputy Education Minister Datuk P. Kamalanathan said the policy, a collaboration with the Health Ministry and the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, is already in the pipeline. “This (policy) was discussed in the recent post-cabinet meeting, and we want to see how we can create better support for children with autism, and other learning difficulties. “We want to see how we can work with the various stakeholders, as their input is very important. We want to create equal opportunities for education,” he said at the Inclusion and Autism Public Forum at Help University here, today. Kamalanathan said both parents and teachers play important roles in ensuring that children with learning disabilities were not isolated. He said the ministry would also engage with the Permata Kurnia Centre – a platform providing pre-school education and early intervention for children with autism – to receive their input as well. Teachers, he said, need to be able to understand more about learning disabilities so they could better manage the pupils. “For this, continuous training would be needed.” Meanwhile, The National Autism Society Malaysia (Nasom) chairman Bistamam Siru Abdul Rahman revealed an eye-opening statistic by the US Department of Health and Human Services Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in 2014 that one in 68 children were born with autism. He said in recent years, the rate of an autistic child being born was one to 600, a prevalent rate that was increasing in society. “This statistic is huge and is a worrying figure. “Looking at the crude birth rate in Malaysia, we are estimating about 9,000 child being born with autism in the country yearly,” he said adding that there were currently about 60,000 people being diagnosed with autism recorded in the country. He said a lot needs to be done to help people with autism in terms of education, infrastructure, database, and job opportunities. Bistaman added that acceptance and inclusion were keys to make those with autism feel welcomed and not marginalised. “Job opportunities are becoming critical as some of the kids Nasom was training since 1987 are now adults and are in need of some sort of financial independence after the caregivers are gone. “We must think about what we can do for them, about employment, job training or some means of self-employment,” he added.

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