Monday, October 12, 2009

Every Child Deserves A Boon in Education

Pak Busu has a cousin, who lives in Scotland. She and her husband, in their sixties, work as social workers for the British Government, taking care of autistic children for the past 40 over years.

Recently, she came back to The Pearl of the Orient to visit her mother, who underwent a surgery. During her brief stay, she shared with Chu and Pak Busu on how they deal with these special children, as Hariz, one of My Little Angels, is one.

For an autistic child, he is merely a soul that has no physical attributes, hence it is vital to introduce him to himself by having photo journals and mirrors. “This is your mouth. You speak with your mouth”. “This is your hand. You touch the ball with your hand”.

For him, our world is such a chaotic place, with too many stimuli, which he cannot process and comprehend. Once he found one logical matter that he could put his mind, heart and soul into it, he would do wonders.

She introduces us to a perfect book called “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”, by Mark Haddon. Narrated by a fifteen-year-old autistic savant obsessed with Sherlock Holmes, this dazzling novel weaves together an old-fashioned mystery, a contemporary coming-of-age story, and a fascinating excursion into a mind incapable of processing emotions. This is a MUST-READ book, not only to those who has autistic children, but it would also be beneficial to those who want to understand this mind-puzzling disorder. While some are clinically diagnosed as autistic, I somehow feel that there are some out there who show a degree or two of autistic behaviour (we may wrongly perceive them as anti-social).

In UK, once a child (a citizen) is diagnosed as one, a social worker would visit the parents, planning how they could guide the child to be a self-sufficient individual - any form of assistance is assured to reach the target group, unlike in this Ibu Pertiwi, where the less fortunates and zero'cable' are left unattended.

After various assessments, the child would be placed to live in a government-owned house, along with other autistic children and the social workers. One child graduated from the house to be a sushi chef in a restaurant and is currently living in a flat by himself. For social workers like Pak Busu’s cousin, that itself is a huge accomplishment. It is life made easy for the child and the parents.

So, when I thought I would still be basking in glimmering lights of hope this Monday morning, I am so sad to read that in 1(Failed)Malaysia, “Boon for gifted children” will be made available by the government, when in France, the Land of Carla Bruni’s Other Half, such establishment is privately managed and the expenses are borned by the parents of the gifted children.

“Education is the most powerful weapon, which you can use to change the world” ~ Nelson Mandela

How I wish My Little Angel, along with other challenged children are given similar assistance. Of course, in the case of autism, we have NASOM. However, this Society is poorly funded and short-handed. Some parents were horrified to find their little ones being tied to chairs in a room because the centre has too little experienced staff to guide these special (sometimes hyperactive) children. After a few disappointing visits, my sister thinks that the Government should hire more social workers, where relevant training and allowance are provided, and establishing such centre could provide a lively and interesting ‘lab’ for wanna-be medical doctors, psychologists and therapists. Ideally, each child requires sole attention from one ‘guardian’, as autism itself has myriad spectra, which differ from one child to another and certainly this requires different approach of guidance. In real world, not all parents are financially capable to fork out a handsome sum of fees to get professional one-off training in handling autistic children.

Apart from autism, thanks to the advent of science, neurobehavioural development disorders (like ADHD) and learning disorders could be detected early in a child's life. But, what do we do once they are diagnosed as one? Most of them go into mainstream school only to be ridiculed by their peers and be treated harshly by their teachers.

These special children do not need out pity – they need our understanding and help to empower themselves, getting on with life. They say some savants, a spectrum of autism, are gifted. Some say M. Nasir and Michael Phelps and . I am not sure whether they are clinically diagnosed as one but the point I am trying to bring home is that these special children could contribute to the society, even in their little ways, beyond their beloved family.

All they need is a chance to help themselves.

Yes, each child that is born in this Ibu Pertiwi deserves a boon in education.

“Our task is to provide an education for the kind of kids we have... Not the kind of kids we used to have... Or want to have... Or the kids that exist in our dreams”
~ Mary Kay Utecht


zorro said...

People really dont care how much we know until they know how much we CARE. I am with you on this campaign.

Fi-sha said...

My Dear Uncle Zorro,

thanks for your support. I shall update once i have some feedback from those institutions and people on this project.