Helping autistic children reach full potential

Helping autistic children reach full potential

KUALA LUMPUR: While there are no exact figures for the number of neurodivergent children in the country, the number of autistic ones in Malaysia has increased over the years, with the global prevalence indicating that one out of every 36 eight-year-olds are on the spectrum.

This 2023 figure from the US Centres for Disease Control indicates its prevalence is extremely high.

Additionally, the total number of Integrated Special Education Programme students in Malaysia has increased by 14% within the last two years.

In Selangor alone, the number of primary school pupils has increased from 7,811 in 2020 to 9,084 in 2022, further indicating the growing number of neurodivergent children in Malaysia. These are only those that are registered as such.

In conjunction with World Autism Month, which starts today, consultant neurodivergent therapist Khadijah Yunos is calling on the Education Ministry to train teachers to identify early signs and traits of learning difficulties in children.

Khadijah, who has a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and is trained in Applied Behavioural Analysis, said neurodivergent individuals often experience differences in mental function, learning styles, sensory processing, communication styles and behaviours.

“Some autistic individuals may struggle with soft skills such as emotional intelligence, communication skills, social interactions or the ability to work in a group.”

She said neurodiversity is a neurological difference, and learning difficulty includes those with autism, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia.

“In Malaysia, these children are either rejected from entering preschool or their parents are told to send them elsewhere as they could not provide the required support.”

However, she said those who can afford private treatment send their children for intervention at specific centres, but this can be very costly.

In August 2022, Khadijah started Sejolly PLT where she and her team of therapists tailor sessions with neurodivergent children according to what is necessary and functional for the child instead of merely following theory-based methods.

“There is a huge gap between educators and therapists and parents as there is no continuous collaboration or in-depth communication on their child’s progress.

“This means parents are not 100% aware of whatever happens in therapy sessions or school, and due to this, they cannot reinforce at home the skills learned during therapy sessions at the centre.”

To overcome the problem and ensure neurodivergent children achieve their fullest potential, Khadijah has developed an app called Rootin to assist them in continuing learning at home.

She has two models for the app. The first is for early intervention centres and clinics which treat neurodivergent children and can be used by their therapists.

The second model is for parents who cannot afford private therapists.

These parents would be paired with Sejolly PLT therapists for a weekly virtual consultation and parent training to support their children.

The app serves to supplement the physical private treatment in ensuring consistency for the child. However, for parents who cannot afford to send their child to physical one-on-one sessions, Sejolly only charges parents RM220 a month.

In return, they get weekly consultations on how to further support their child at home while waiting for their therapy slot in government hospitals.

Among others, the app offers an individualised education plan for each child’s short and long-term goals so therapists and parents are on the same page.

The app also has hundreds of bite-sized video models.

These are assigned by therapists to parents so whatever activity is taught during therapy sessions can be replicated at home by following simple steps in the videos.

Khadijah hopes that with the app’s popularity, they can support more neurodivergent children all over Malaysia to get the education that they deserve to progress to their best potential.


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