Sunday, September 09, 2007

Autism Rising in Brunei

Autism is not a construct of North American or European societies. Autism is a serious disorder that restricts the lives of children and their families in countries around the world from Canada and the US, to the UK, France, Israel, India, Nigeria and elsewhere. There is no country which does not have to concern itself with autism, to care and treat and help its autistic population. SMARTER Brunei (Society for the Management of Autism Related Issues in Training, Education and Resources) is winding up today its 3 day conference, the 5th Brunei National Conference on Autism 2007

Some alarm was expressed over the rising numbers of autism diagnoses in Brunei with 50 diagnosed last year and 50 already by June of this year. That figure translates into 1 in 150 births similar to the figures in the United States. As in the US, Canada and other countries there is a lack of services for persons with autism and their families. SMARTER centers can not cope with the existing registered cases of autism let alone those who are not registered. In Brunei there is a real need for a support system, capable of providing social, technical or training, financial and political support, to facilitate the children and their families.

Brunei SMARTER President Malai Hj Abdullah bin Hj Malai Othman, shown in the ZASIKA MUZDI photo, addressed the conference and spoke of the challenges of autism and the need for support services:

"Autism is the most challenging yet the most rewarding of all conditions, .... Every day activities that we take for granted like brushing teeth is such a battle. Now imagine every little bit of life skills need to be taught in detail and repeatable. It is time-consuming and draining us mentally, physically, emotionally, and financially as well.

We did not choose to have children with autism. Allah has blessed us with our children and we must take the challenge and the responsibility to care and nurture our children to be independent and productive individuals. We as a family are giving our best, but sometimes our best is not enough, we need support and understanding, not pity or sympathy."

The Brunei Times, September 9, 2007

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