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Saturday, April 3, 2010

Brunei "stands up for autism"

Dr Sharina binti Hj Yunus giving her welcoming address.

Minister of Health in a speech during WAAD at the Yayasan Complex.

Health Minister touring the exhibition. - PHOTOS: JASON LEONG

Guest of honour receiving a token of appreciation from the President of Learning Ladders Society.

Committee members posing for a photo.
Brunei Darussalam joined the rest of the world on a global effort to celebrate World Austism Awareness Day (WAAD) 2010 with the objective to raise awareness about autism.

The launching ceremony was organised by Learning Ladders Society (LLS), one of the organisations in Brunei for early intervention for children with neurotic disorders including Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The ceremony was held at the Ground Floor of the Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah (YSHHB) Complex, yesterday.

Brunei has a concrete effort to improve services for these children to enable them to live up to their full potential through the Children Development Centre (CDC).

"The CDC offers services through a multi-disciplinary team of professionals with a holistic management approach with the goal of obtaining the maximum functional independence," said the Minister of Health, Pehin Orang Kaya Indera Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Haji Suyoi bin Haji Osman in his speech during the ceremony.
"But the life-long care for individuals with autism is very expensive," said the minister before adding that there is no known cure for autism but there is hope because it is treatable.

Leading researchers and autism education providers agree that children with autism need increased access to evidence-based interventions such as Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) and other similar intervention strategies.

"We are aware that there is a shortage of qualified professionals in this area. In that context I am pleased to be informed that Learning Ladders Society has initiated a training programme for local Bruneians to enable them to become qualified ABA therapists," said the minister.
The training programme to become qualified ABA therapists last for nine months and can lead to the internationally recognised BCABA qualifications. The trainings are conducted by an experienced Behavioural Psychologist, Dr Douglas Less in Canada through a combination of on-site visits and video-conferencing.
The minister lauded LLS as the first group of Bruneian ABA counsellors are completing the training in a few months' time.

"This pioneer group will be able to go on to train more locals and thus increase the pool of qualified professionals in the area of ABA.
"The Ministry of Health will continue to support and collaborate with LLS in their initiative to employ and empower local Bruneians and improve the quality of life for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder," added the minister.
The minister officiated the World Autism Awarness Day 2010 with the sound of a 'gong' and later witnessed a video presentation about autism and LLS. This was followed by a certificate presentation for sponsors and head of volunteers.
The minister also toured an exhibition that was set up to raise awareness on autism. Leading the tour was Dr Sharina binti Haji Yunus, President of Learning Ladders Society.

Dr Sharina said that due to limited funds, LLS can only employ three ABA counsellors and cater to not more that 20 children and would like to employ and train more locals in providing services to many more children especially those on the 'waiting list'.

She too has a six years old child who suffers from ASD. She said, "We urgently need funding to employ, train and cater to more children. With our own people doing the therapy we can extend our help to children at grass root level regardless of socio-economic background of the family."

The day also saw LLS's LifeSize video-conference system with Dr Douglas Lee from Canada about ABA Training Programme that was held at fourth floor of YSHHB Complex.

Also present to witness the launching ceremony was Deputy Minister of Health, Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Dato Paduka Haji Hazair bin Haji Abdullah, permanent secretaries and various volunteers groups including UNISSA students.

This year's theme for WAAD is 'Stand Up for Autism'. The exhibition is open to the public during this period to further raise awareness and gain better understanding on this serious disorder.

Courtesy of Aziz Idris, Borneo Bulletin.