Early diagnosis vital in treating autism

National 2 minutes, 26 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

EARLY diagnosis coupled with effective and appropriate intervention strategies are key factors for achieving success in treating autism, as currently there is no cure, said the Minister of Health yesterday.

"Autism is a life-long developmental disability that manifests itself during the first three years of life. The rate of autism in all regions of the world is high and it has a tremendous impact on children, their families, communities and societies," said Minister of Health Pehin Orang Kaya Indera Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Hj Suyoi Hj Osman.

The health minister explained that although life-long care for individuals with autism was very expensive, research suggest that proper investment in supporting people with autism would reduce the cost by enabling them to contribute to society to realise their full potential.

In an interview, Pehin Dato Hj Suyoi said: "It is good that societies (such as Learning Ladders (LLS) and Smarter) are making people aware about autism, because we need to support autistic children (as) they are not any different from any case. We could help them to live a normal life, if we understand them and if we help them."

Pehin Dato Hj Suyoi said that autism was not properly understood as a distinct condition, and that the needs of people affected were not recognised. "The impact of this on individuals can be devastating and it also has a wide social impact."

"So I am glad that Smarter and Learning Ladders are doing it (intervention programmes), and I just wish that they will work together and help children in general. It is good that they are using different methods to help the children, even though their methodologies are different (because) their objectives are the same to help autistic children," said the health minister.

In response to whether the ministry had future plans on expanding their networks to aid autistic individuals, Pehin Dato Hj Suyoi said: "We have the Child Development Centre (CDC) which also does this type of thing. CDC itself is expanding, and what we hope for the future is that we are going to have CDC with (better capacities), so hopefully all the other NGOs can come to CDC for assistance, as CDC deals with such children and other kinds of children as well (other disabilities) in a holistic way." He added: "In giving professional help, support and advice to parents, teachers and careers, the CDC works closely with the Special Education Unit at the Ministry of Education and other non-government organisations such as Learning Ladders."

The minister was present to officiate the "World Autism Awareness Day", organised by LLS at the Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Complex.

After the opening ceremony, the health minister was led to view an exhibition on autism awareness and attend a video conference with experienced behavioural psychologist Dr Douglas Lee in Canada. Dr Lee conducts regular ABA training for LLS through video-conferencing, which lasted for nine-months.

The Brunei Times