Close watch

Cen­tres for the dis­abled need to be closely mon­i­tored.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIFESTYLE -

THE re­cent death of an autis­tic teenager, who is be­lieved to have been phys­i­cally and sex­u­ally abused by his care­tak­ers in a cen­tre for the dis­abled, has shocked the nation. The cen­tre, which was not reg­is­tered with the Wel­fare Depart­ment, has since been closed down.

The in­ci­dent brings into ques­tion the cur­rent state of cen­tres for the dis­abled and homes for the el­derly.

Are they be­ing checked by the au­thor­i­ties to en­sure that they com­ply with the nec­es­sary re­quire­ments to con­duct such an out­fit, and have proper fa­cil­i­ties for their res­i­dents?

My work as city councillor in Petaling Jaya, Se­lan­gor, re­quires me to visit homes for the dis­abled and the el­derly to make sure that they fol­low all that is needed to op­er­ate such care cen­tres.

For the phys­i­cally dis­abled, these in­clude wheel­chair-friendly toi­lets with grab bars, ramps and other ne­ces­si­ties. For care cen­tres for the el­derly, they must have ac­cess to a med­i­cal doc­tor. This is vi­tal es­pe­cially dur­ing a med­i­cal emer­gency. For peo­ple with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties, there are more is­sues to con­sider than just med­i­cal emer­gen­cies.

Al­though they are all cat­e­gorised as peo­ple with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties, a per­son with autism, for in­stance, should not be lumped to­gether with some­one with Down syn­drome or other mental dis­abil­i­ties. Each type of dis­abil­ity should be treated ac­cord­ing to its spe­cific needs.

“Some sort of spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion pro­gramme should be drawn up for peo­ple with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties,” said Sariah Amirin, pres­i­dent of the Dyslexia As­so­ci­a­tion of Malaysia.

“In ad­di­tion to read­ing and writ­ing, they must be taught liv­ing skills. For ex­am­ple, they can learn to wash their clothes, fry an egg, recog­nise the dif­fer­ence be­tween a RM10 and RM5 note, and iden­tify coins.”

Sariah pointed out that at­ten­tion should be given to the envi- ron­ment and set-up of cen­tres for peo­ple with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties.

“Any­one who wants to run such a cen­tre must first have a thor­ough un­der­stand­ing of what learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties are and how to reach out to such per­sons,” she added.

“He or she must have spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion qualifications. There should be male and fe­male teach­ers. This is im­por­tant when it comes to teach­ing the stu­dents to bathe them­selves, as part of their liv­ing skills train­ing.”

Dis­abled stu­dents also re­quire a spe­cial diet, one that will not con­trib­ute to hy­per­ac­tiv­ity in them. Sweet or spicy foods are not ad­vis­able for spe­cial kids.

The liv­ing room must not be clut­tered, as this can dis­tress some peo­ple with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties. Rooms must have space for them to move around freely. Ta­bles and other ob­jects must not have sharp cor­ners that might in­jure any in­di­vid­ual. Knives must be kept out of reach.

“Autis­tic per­sons of­ten live in a world of their own. Teach­ing ma­te­ri­als that are multi-sen­sory are help­ful,” Sariah pointed out.

Sariah stressed the im­por­tance of govern­ment mon­i­tor­ing of all cen­tres for the learn­ing dis­abled.

“This must ac­tively in­volve not only the Wel­fare Depart­ment but the Health Min­istry as well. Peo­ple with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties can­not speak for them­selves so they are the ones who need the most help.

“The ma­jor­ity of them are not able to get sup­port like oth­ers. Many of them don’t know how to feed them­selves.

“They re­quire fi­nan­cial help, have no trans­port to go to school and most of their par­ents can­not af­ford to pro­vide such ser­vices,” she pointed out.

Most im­por­tantly, be care­ful where you en­rol your chil­dren.

“Make sure that the cen­tre is staffed with peo­ple who have the right qualifications to help your spe­cial kids im­prove them­selves. All chil­dren, no mat­ter what their de­gree of their dis­abil­ity, are ed­u­ca­ble,” added Sariah.

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