The HEALTH : June 2019 - Page 17

june, 2019 | The Health Issue: Autism The place for kids with autism Genius@Kurnia helps children with autism to excel and join their peers at school G enius@Kurnia is an early interven- tion centre for children with autism. Started of as Permata Kurnia in 2015, the centre has had hundreds of children and families coming through its doors. Intervention strategies in GENIUS@ Kurnia incorporate evidence-based practice and naturalistic teaching with the cooperation between the trans-disciplinary groups and active participation of parents. As one would know, the key to have children with autism to become a contributing member of society and to have better quality of life is early intervention. This is what the centre is built upon, and so far, it has helped many to rejoin society in a meaningful way. Associate Professor Dr Hasnah Toran, Director of Genius@Kurnia explains the centre’s core function. Complete program for kids and parents “We were placed under the Prime Minister’s office at start, but have now being placed under the Ministry of Education. The placement aligns better with our values. This is because we provide early intervention and early childhood special education, and our main goal is to get our kids into mainstream year one classes rather the into special education,” Dr Hasnah says. “We try our best to do so, however for kids that are unable to go into mainstream schools, we want to have them excel in the special education classes rather than being there for the sake of being there.” For early intervention, the sessions aim to enhance basic skills of children aged 6 and below and prepare them for the pre-school programme. During the ses- Parents are encourage to join the intervention sessions as it is way more effective for the child. sions, parents are trained by interventionists to carry out the intervention on children. Children with autism needs a lot of support to improve their inabilities to socialise and excel in school. This is why the centre also provides support for the parents. “We strongly encourage the parents to come in with their children for early intervention in our centre. This is because the best people to teach and train the children are the parents themselves.” Because of the inclusion of the parents, Genius@ Kurnia also provides classes and training for parents to manage their children better, and to have a clinical psychologist coming in once a week to provide psycho- logical counselling for parents facing immense stress managing their children. “Even after the kids have grown and are joining school, we provide support in the form of shadow aides. These aides are usually employed by the parents to monitor the child in school and see whether any adjustments should be made.” “The reason for the aides is because going to school can be a very daunting task for the children. Even though we have trained them to read, write and do math, the socialising aspect of being in school can sometimes be a problem for our kids. The aides are there to see whether there are things that can be done to soften the difficulty for our kids.” Teachers are welcome as well The centre have gone over and beyond its main func- tion as an early intervention centre for children with autism over the course of its existence. As the children joins mainstream schools, the ones to also carry the weight of educating them are the teachers. “We understand the difficulty of teachers where they may not be familiar with managing and teaching children with autism. This is why we also provide teach- ers with training in our centre as well.” Other than that, the public also have access to online courses about autism that is available on Genius@Kurnia’s website. “We have done a lot within the short time span since we started,” Dr Hasnah comments. Spearheading the research on autism Genius@Kurnia offers children with autism better prospects in school once they have reached the age to enrol in Year 1 classes. house so soon, why don’t we build rooms in the meantime.” It is safe to say that research on autism in Malaysia has been lacking in terms of data and prevalence. Dr Hasnah is aiming to work on researching the preva- lence of autism in Malaysia through the centre and its members. The centre also wants to become a place for profes- sionals to receive training on identifying and managing children with autism. “As the need for more profes- sionals to be capable of diagnosing autism increases, we feel that there is a place in our centre to have such a program.” The calming room to develop Going strong A sensory room is a special room designed to develop a person’s sense, usually through special lighting, music, and objects. It can be used as a therapy for children with limited communication skills, ergo children with autism. “It would be safe to say that we have built sensory rooms in every state in Malaysia, all in hospitals with ample unused space.” Besides sensory rooms, there is so much more RMHC has been doing over the course of its existence. The Health will continue to talk about RMHC in our upcoming issues. Stay tuned! – The Health Genius@Kurnia is barely four years old, and already it has provided the public with a lot of knowledge and training for children with autism. The centre currently have 400 children training to join their peers in school later on. Parents who have children with autism may enrol in Genius@Kurnia for RM500 a month, and the fee are used to solely provide the children with ample facility. And for parents with a combined income lower than RM5000, enrolment will be free of charge. Dr Hasnah, having two children with autism herself, pledge to educate and promote the awareness of autism among Malaysians. — The Health Nasri Nordin says that RMHC provides all the furniture, accessories, general upgrading as well as basic maintenance like lightbulb changes for the sensory rooms. Further use and maintenance are managed by the healthcare centre themselves. 17