MALACCA: Early intervention for autism is crucial to ensure a child’s proper development and to afford them a chance at leading a normal life.
Towards that end, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim has urged parents of autistic children to register with the Social Welfare Department (JKM).
"I am concerned that many people are not aware that their children could be autistic. This is because autism is a form of learning disability, and is unlike physical disability. This makes it more difficult to detect," she told reporters at the 8th 'Walk for Autism' programme at Porta De Santiago in Banda Hilir here, today.
Also present at the Walk for Autism event were JKM director-general Datuk Zulkifly Ramli, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron and President of the board of directors of Kanner Malacca Association.
A total of 4,000 people participated in the walk, which covered 2.7km and passed through several historic sites in the city, including the Stadthuys and Jonker Walk.
Rohani said 15,484 people with autism are registered with JKM, with the largest group among them being those between the ages of seven and 12.
However, she said the figure may not be an accurate tally of the incidence of autism in Malaysia, as many are likely not registered with the department.
Rohani said the World Health Organisation (WHO) states that a country would usually have between 10 and 15 per cent of its population comprised of people with autism.
"This means that in Malaysia, 10 per cent out of our 30 million people are autistic. (That constitutes) about three million people.
"But only 1.3 per cent (or 419,805 people with the disability) have registered with the department,” she said.
Rohani also suggested setting up Autism Centres in each zone in the country, so that those with the disorder could be treated by experts at the facilities.
"At the moment, we only have an Autism Centre in Sentul, and we are hoping to expand it to other states.
"But if it is too costly, we can start off by expanding in “zones”, such as the North Zone, or the South Zone," she added.