Centres for the disabled need to be closely monitored.
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.