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Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life due to a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain. It is four more times prevalent in boys than girls. Autism shows no racial, ethnic or social boundaries, and cuts across family income, lifestyle and educational levels. Autism and its associated behaviors have been estimated to occur in as many as 1 in 68 newborns.
Parents usually see the symptoms in the children between the ages of two and six. Some of the symptoms that are most often found to be associated with autism are: not being scared of danger, either being too sensitive or not sensitive at all to pain, avoiding eye contact, has difficulty expressing what they want or need, routine has to always be the same, and may show an overall difficulty interacting with others.
Autism affects the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Children and adults with autism have difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions and leisure or play activities. This disorder makes it hard for them to relate to the outside world. It is hard for them to communicate with others. Aggressive and/or self-injurious behavior may be present in some cases. They may exhibit repeated body movement, such as hand flapping or rocking, unusual responses to people or attachments to objects and resistance to changes in routines. They possibly will experience sensitivities in the five senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell.
Some children with autism do not speak at all, but most do develop speech although speech is usually delayed, limited or inappropriate. Some may repeat words or mimic sentences or phrases they have observed from someone else. As yet there is no cure for autism, but there is a great amount of different medications that are prescribed to reduce the symptoms and better manage the patient.
Autism is one of the fastest growing disorders with a great amount of studies being put behind it. With is vast amount of different signs and symptoms, different forms, how its treated and arguments about how exactly the disorder came to be. Autism can very well be one of the most confusing and researched disorders that stirs up a lot of questions but yet gets hardly any answers.
According to Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in United States, the incidence of autism are at 1 in 68 children. That would mean that approximately 9000 children in Malaysia are born with autism every year. In a few short years the kids will be looking for autism intervention programs and that is likely to increase every year by the same number. This will be a challenge for education services authorities to meet the needs of this growing group of Malaysians with autism. All the NGOs combined today do not handle more than 1500 children. Hence we need to at least double and triple our resources in the country to develop facilities and programs to cater for this anticipated increase in demand for services.
The challenge for us as an NGO run by volunteers is to continue addressing and meeting the needs of a growing number of autistic individuals. In recent years, NASOM has seen a 30% increase in the number of those seeking its services across all age groups. Meeting the service needs of all groups from all backgrounds and all walks of life requires resources. We would like to do more especially in the remote and under-served districts in the country but as an NGO, dependant on public charity, our resources are limited.
Another major challenge is to raise funds to pay for our activities and operations that serve people with autism. We need to keep the centres open and running. And we need to open new centres. We try not to raise our fees as we want to make it affordable and be accessible to all.
With the right support at the right time, people with autism can live rewarding and fulfilling lives.They can achieve great things, but only if they are supported by people who believe in their potential .We need all kinds of resources from land, buildings, equipment, money and volunteers. Members of the public are welcome to assist us and associate with our people, understand their difficulties and give them the same opportunity as other people.