Autism is not a label
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
“A DIAGNOSIS is nothing to fear, it only opens doors to support and help,” said Heidi Enopio Ancero, a mother of a nine-year-old autistic child.
Ancero added that while some people may see a diagnosis as a “label”, it is anything but.
Ancero is not alone in her quest to solicit help for her child but her attitude should be emulated by other parents whose daughter or son is afflicted with this neuro-developmental disorder characterised by social impairments, communication difficulties, restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behaviour.
The Child Development Centre (CDC) in Kiarong has a total of 518 children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) currently registered at the government medical centre.
According to CDC’s report presented at the forum “Children Growth and Development Trends Issue” held last May 2nd, one in every 1,000 individuals are born with autism based on the Sultanate’s population.
Medical experts, time and again, have stressed the importance of early diagnosis and intervention to help a child with autism.
Dato Paduka Dr Hj Omar Hj Khalid, an education trustee of Pusat Ehsan, said autism stress the need for diagnosis and treatment before a children reaches a certain age, when treatment is known to be the most effective.
“Early intervention is very important as when children reach a certain age. It is more difficult to try and get them to learn new things. The earlier you start, the better it is for the child,” he said, noting the importance of early communication as children get very frustrated if they were not getting help early.
He went on to say that new research suggests that it is even possible to reverse autism symptoms in some infants and toddlers or more commonly seen to be able to decrease the severity of symptoms.
And why some parents of autistic children, still choose not to seek help from relevant agencies, the doctor replied that some might not know how to approach getting help as they might not have the knowledge and skills.
“All parents try their best but if they don’t have the knowledge or skills to do it, then nothing will happen which will result in both side (parent and child) to get frustrated because they cannot help and will get worst eventually,” he explained.
Sharing the same sentiment, President of SMARTER Brunei, Malai Hj Abdullah Hj Malai Othman said while intervening early was of utmost importance and key to a better control in ASD, he believes that it is never too late to seek help as there is also a centre that caters for autistic adults called Baca (Brunei Autism Centre for Adults).
The founder of the family support group told _The Brunei Times _that they are currently providing services to over 115 individuals with autism, he also revealed that ever since January 2015, the centre has received over 25 referrals from CDC to receive treatment from SMARTER.
Aside from early diagnosis, the role of parents in helping a child with autism is also emphasised by experts. But how do you talk to a child with autism? Parents and carers are unsure on what to do as they often feel the inability to communicate and interact with their child.
Dato Dr Hj Omar said that while not many parents and teachers know how to manage children with autism as it requires specialized skill which could not be learned in a short time, research did show there were better ways of providing learning environment with new techniques.
The doctor added that it was a two-way process where both parents and teachers must collaborate to provide continuous learning environment.
“Learning doesn’t stop at school, it should be continued to be carried out at home, where parents are aware and have some skills in managing their children’s behaviour and learning development,’ said Dato Dr Hj Omar.
Ancero said her son was first diagnosed when he was only three years old. She added that as a mother with a child born with autism, she had to pay extra attention and learn the medical condition.
“I decided to educate myself about autism,” adding that it was all about understanding his behavior and what triggers his emotions, nothing that she sometimes comforts him with his favourite food or toys in exchange for him to behave.
Ancero continued to say that the most common misconception with autistic children was that they do not like being in social situations.
While this may not entirely be true, Ancero said she has never restricted her son to mingle with other children at the centre.
In fact, she said, her son now enjoys the company of other children at the centre and also could now able to communicate better after undergoing years of early intervention programme at SMARTER.
Ancero’s story is not isolated.
Another mother who also has a son born with the same medical condition, said it was hard to express how difficult it could be when your child was diagnosed with something you have no knowledge of.
Sarah Shander explained that her son was diagnosed at the age of two, and when CDC broke the news to her, she had no clue what autism was.
She added that having a child who has autism is life changing because you would become more patient and that could be a good thing, she further advised parents who has a child with autism to be more accepting of their condition and to be more open to options of treatment available.
The Brunei Times