Written by Faiz Danyal
When I was little, I found out that I have Hyperlexia - a form of autism. My parents were worried about my future. My mother felt that the chances for those with autism and related disabilities to get a stable and permanent job is very low as major conglomerates and top companies look for employees who can perform in a complex and constantly evolving working environment. However, I am grateful that Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat (JKM) has continuously been committed to helping autistic individuals like myself. The aim of the department is to ensure that disabled people are treated equally in various aspects. The Department handles the registration of persons with disabilities and provides financial aids such as disabled employee aid, general financial aid and supportive tools aid for crutches and wheelchairs. This is one of the main support from the Malaysian government for autistic individuals and I’d like to share a few more in this article.
During the early colonial period, there were a lack of opportunities for children with ASD to enter school except in Sekolah Pondok. During the pre-independence period, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) mostly provided education for those with disabilities while several special schools were established. After Malaysia gained independence in 1957, the Ministry of Education handled individuals with mild autism while individuals with more severe degrees of autism were handled by the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development. However, things changed drastically during the 1990s where there was a rapid development of special education initiatives for individuals with autism such as the establishment of the Special Education Department in 1995, a chapter of Special Education included in Education Act 1996 and the introduction of the Education Rules (Special Education) by the Ministry of Education in 1997 which was then replaced by a new education regulations for special education in 2013. This regulation aims to provide equal education support to the disabled including the autistics. There was also financial aid provided for all disabled students in primary and secondary school for purchasing books, paying tuition for school and university.
In terms of providing employment opportunities, Service Circular No.16/2010 states that public companies need to follow the 1% base requirement in employment opportunities for the disabled. They also need to also provide balanced and fair treatment to the disabled employees including autistic employees by providing special training to prepare them for the working environment plus additional benefits. This will hopefully curb the unemployment crisis within the disabled and reduce the gap of wealth between the disabled and normal individuals.
For future autistic entrepreneurs and businessmen who want to set up their own businesses, the Government has initiated the Skim Bantuan Galakan Perniagaan Orang Kurang Upaya (SBGP-OKU) to facilitate the disabled in setting up their own business. For instance, if I want to set up my own online store, the scheme would help me with getting the start-up business capital. Not only that, there are additional benefits that the government provides in assisting our daily lives such as a 50% discount for all public transportation available and monetary aids for medical purposes such as fees for wards, medicines and expert consultation.
The Malaysia Government has worked on providing necessary aids, support and initiatives to support individuals with autism. However, there are some issues that need to be addressed. For example, there is no specific assistance in terms of special needs education as even the recent National Educational Plan does not specify clearly about the education system and structure that needs to be implemented for autistic students. Therefore, I do hope that the current government will have a bigger and clearer plan to assist autistic individuals.
Form for The Application of Financial Aid for the Disabled: http://www.jkm.gov.my/jkm/uploads/files/JPOKU/BORANG%20PERMOHONAN%20JKM%2018.pdf