SANDAKAN: Concern for the affairs of children with special needs needs to be highlighted following the continuous increase in the number of diagnoses for autism spectrum disorders in Malaysia over the past decade.
Sabah Community Development and People’s Well-being Minister (KPMKR), Datuk James Ratib said the latest annual figures show that a total of 589 children aged 18 and under have been diagnosed with Autism.
He said, the figure obtained from the data for 2021 for the State of Sabah was an increase of 5 percent from the 562 children in 2020.
“Therefore, I hope that in the future the state of Sabah will have an autism school that can alleviate the high funding costs of parents or guardians of autistic children here.
“As I have highlighted before, the proposal for the construction of the school has been agreed at the cabinet level. Now, a comprehensive study for the implementation of this autism school is still being discussed and refined,” he said.
James who is also the Sugut Assemblyman said this while officiating the Parenting Workshop: Handling Children with Special Needs held at the Grand Ballroom, Sandakan Hotel, Sabah on Saturday.
“Today’s program is a ‘roadshow’ of parenting workshops involving four districts, namely Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, Tawau and Keningau. I launched this workshop on March 4 last week in Kota Kinabalu.
“Today, it is the turn of the people in the Sandakan to have the opportunity to attend the Parenting Workshop. Next, this program will be followed up in Tawau on March 18 and will end with Keningau on May 13,” he said.
According to James, one of the objectives to be highlighted in this workshop is to increase the level of awareness and broaden the community’s knowledge about children with special needs.
“For sure, this knowledge will be given by some of our professional speakers today who are quite experienced in handling children with special needs,” he said.
He added that one of the challenges that parents and guardians often face is when these special children have emotional or behavioral disorders that are more difficult to control.
“Some of these children’s behaviors may be difficult for the surrounding community to accept and understand. They may be viewed obliquely or better known as a stigma from society.
“This often causes family members to feel embarrassed to seek professional treatment or counseling services, which can affect the cognitive, emotional and social development of these special children in addition to the emotional damage of the parents and guardians themselves.
“Honestly, I am always amazed by parents or guardians who are chosen to raise and educate children with special needs because it is not easy,” he said.
James said, it is a full-time responsibility that is full of joys, sorrows, various challenges and obstacles, especially in achieving the desire for them to be able to be part of the community.
“Thus, today’s workshop is not only focused on the children, but we also aim to help identify and deal with stress among the parents and caregivers concerned.
“Well done and congratulations to the organizers, namely the Duchess of Kent Hospital’s Psychiatry & Mental Health Department, MPMS, Sandakan Mental Health Welfare Association, C.H.I.L.D. Sabah, and the Sabah Mental Health Association.
“Of course, our workshop today would not be possible if there was no strong cooperation and commitment from those parties,” he explained.
Also present, KPMKR Deputy Permanent Secretary, Maria David Edick, Director of Duchess of Kent Hospital Sandakan, Dr Mohd Fahmie Bin Othman, Psychiatrist and Head of the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, Duchess of Kent Hospital cum Organizing Chairman, Dr Cheang Yue Wen, Executive Secretary of Sabah Community Service Council, Joeanne Lee Soon Ee, Chairman of the Sandakan Mental Health Welfare Association, Rozman Bin Samsudin and others.