Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Supported Living Program 18-19 Dec 2010

Activity : Parent's Meeting and playing games at the OPTIONS year end party.
Objective: To learn how to interact socially with others

Supported Living Program 9 Dec 2010

Activity: Carol Singing with friends
Objective: To understand the meaning of Christmas and sing carol with friends.

Activity: Julie's Birthday Celebration.
Objective: To celebrate each person as a unique individual and value each other as friends.

Supported Living Program 4-5-6 Dec 2010

Activity: Awana Genting Trip.
Objective: To have fun with friends.

Supported Living Program 27 Nov 2010

Activity: Garage Sale in OPTIONS
Objective: To promote public awareness and raise fund for OPTIONS.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

ONE VOICE: December

The right to an equal opportunity


DURING his free time, Ho Wai Keen, 23, reads and copies from a book, You Love Me? Don’t Accept Me As I Am by Dr Reuven Feuerstein and his colleagues at the International Centre for the Enhancement of Learning Potential. If the title of the book is telling, it is because he is determined to fight off the label that had been placed on him since birth for having an extra chromosome.

World-renowned clinical psychologist Feuerstein, whose grandson also has Down Syndrome, urges people with learning disabilities and their caregivers not to accept the diagnosis passively but to actively seek mind-stimulating therapies. He postulates that the brain is like plastic, modifiable when given the right stimulus.

“I don’t like it when people call me names or see me as someone who has a learning disorder,” said Ho as he related how he was bullied when he first enrolled in an international school.

But over time, with his cheerful disposition, he made friends and went on to spend 10 years there.

The book means a lot to him as he bought it in July this year when he attended Feuerstein’s conference in Romania which catered to educators and therapists.

“I want to learn how to mediate so that I can reach out to others who are considered low-functioning,” said Ho emphatically.

Therapists Foo Siang Mun and K.C. Soo who were also at the conference, said Ho left a deep impression on the lecturers as he did not shy away from speaking up and did not quit even when given tough assignments.

As confident as he is, Ho, too, faces the challenge of employment in mainstream society. Many high-functioning young adults like Ho, have a deep desire to secure a job in the open market.

“Just like everyone else, they want equal opportunities in getting a job, and be able to earn money and make independent financial decisions,” said Dignity and Services (D&S) executive director, Mettilda John. D&S is an advocacy group that seeks to empower people with learning disabilities, and help them live independently through its supported living programme.

Over the past four years since D&S started the programme, Ho has been actively involved and has proven to be a capable person. He enjoys time spent away from his family from Wednesday to Sunday at Options for Supported Living in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur.

“Set him a task, and he will put in 150% effort. His work ethics is second to none,” said John. It is no surprise why he has been elected by his peers as the head of the house. And when the occasion calls for it, Ho is entrusted to help out with D&S office work.

More good things are in store for him. Ho begins his internship with Hotel Maya Kuala Lumpur near KL City Centre this month. The prospect of working and taking the LRT gives him a sense of purpose and hope for the future. All this is made possible because Selangor Dredging Bhd (SDB), which owns the five-star boutique hotel, has embarked on a course to be an inclusive corporation. SDB managing director Teh Lip Kim is instrumental in setting the agenda.

“Having a six-year-old son with autism helps me to see things in a different perspective. Providing working experience for the learning disabled is our first step. It is something close to my heart,” Teh admitted candidly.

Although it is uncharted terrain for her, Teh is prepared to step out in faith to use the resources available to her to bring together the able and disabled alike as a community.

“Life is a journey and at times, it calls for taking risks. If we fall, we pick ourselves up. The key is not to be afraid to take the first step,” said Teh.

When Teh came to know about D&S and Bake4Fund, a set-up by two mothers for people with learning disorders to learn and earn by baking cakes and cookies for sale, she decided to rope them in to help raise awareness among her staff and the patrons of SDB.

“Bake4Fund is about helping people with learning disorders to focus on their potential by honing their skills in baking even as care is put into the products to ensure they are delicious and of quality,” explained Lim Ang Nei, Bake4Fund’s co-founder.

A baking project was mooted and it was timed for the launch of SDB’s Dedaun which offers 38 luxury apartments in an enclave off Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur.

With help from Maya Hotel’s executive chef, Adriano Teng, pastry chef, Tommy Soong and his staff, seven participants from D&S and Bake4Fund baked 200 trays of fudge brownies and 1,800 mini muffins of cempedak and pandan flavours. These were packed into 400 boxes and given away to visitors who turned up at SDB’s Dedaun show unit.

Teh said she was drawn to the energy and vision of D&S and Bake4Fund.

As it was a first for everyone, Teng and Soong took care of the logistics to ensure everyone had a chance to bake at the hotel’s pastry kitchen. Soong and his staff taught the participants how to do piping, besides the usual mixing and stirring.

To accommodate one of the participants, Cheong Choong Jian, who uses a wheelchair, care was given to ensure accessibility in the kitchen.

For participants like Ho, Chin Keat Lai and Nicholas Mathew, donning an apron with their name tag gave them a sense of pride.

Even before the baking project came to an end, SDB’s human resource department had started working out the details to provide internships for the learning disabled community at the hotel.

“It is our (SDB) way of giving back to society,” added Teh.

One Voice is a monthly column which serves as a platform for professionals, parents and careproviders of children with learning difficulties. Feedback on the column can be sent to For enquiries of services and support groups, please call Malaysian Care ( 03 9058 2102) or Dignity & Services ( 03-7725 5569). E-mail:


Monday, November 29, 2010

Hotel Maya Internship Program (Nov-Dec 2010)

Activity: Hotel Maya Internship Program 2010
Objective: To enable individuals to receive training in real life settings towards economic empowerment.

Waiting for the LRT to go to KLCC.

At the HR Department with Valerie Ong explaining their employment contracts.

Testing out their work uniforms.

Commencing work at the Pastry Department, Hotel Maya,KLCC

Supported Living Program 19-20-21 Nov 2010

Activity: Dinner & Dance 2010 "A Night of a Thousand Memories"
Objective: To enable individuals to have fun among friends.

Activity: Sticking postal address to envelopes & playing kites and Frisbee at Kepong Metropolitan Park
Objective: To enable individuals to participate in the work of D&S. To enable individuals to have fun among friends.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Supported Living Program 13 Nov 2010

Activity: House cleaning.
Objective: To maintain the cleanliness of OPTIONS house

Supported Living Program 6-7 Nov 2010

Activity: Terry Fox Run 2010
Objective: To participate in mainstream sports and be a visible part of the community.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Courtesy of The Star Newspaper
Wednesday November 3, 2010

Stepping out Focus on young adults with special needs

THE first time I met Matthew Loh was at an LRT station in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, at 7.45am, while he was on his way to work.

As a young man with Asperger syndrome, a learning disability under the group of conditions known as autism spectrum disorder, it wasn’t easy for him to have me around.

Though he speaks almost perfect English, Matthew’s condition means that he finds it unsettling to make adjustments to his routines, and has difficulties with social interaction. His mother had to ask him a few days before if it was okay for me to meet him.

“My main struggle is to adapt to changes. Like if there’s a change in the bus routes, or in my working hours, I find it hard to adapt. I have to be informed ahead of time,” said Matthew, 25, in an awkward yet clinical tone while we were waiting for the train.

He had agreed to talk to me for the length of the journey to his workplace, and he spoke very matter-of-factly about “overcoming the challenges” he has, in areas people often take for granted.

While most people his age are planning for their careers and the rest of their lives, Matthew worries about keeping a regular job, learning to be independent from his family, making friends, and finding a partner he can spend the rest of his life with.

Matthew Loh has Asperger syndrome but with some help from Malaysian Care and a determination to overcome the challenges he faces due to his condition, he's landed a job doing data entry. He even takes public transport to work every morning.

“I had a bit of trouble learning to make friends, but I managed to overcome all that by learning to say ‘hi’, to introduce myself, say what my name is, how old I am – basic introductory skills,” he said.

With the help of Malaysian Care, a Christian non-profit organisation that runs a programme preparing special needs young adults for employment, Matthew and many others like him have been able to find “sheltered employment”, where employers are pre-selected and trained to handle special needs individuals.

Matthew, for example, does data entry. He gets paid RM65 a day, five days a week, and is on a six-month rolling contract that’s renewable based on his work performance.

Malaysian Care teaches its members things like punctuality, manners, responsibility and initiative over the course of a few years, depending on their learning capacity. They have been largely successful in preparing special needs individuals for the working world.

Just like Matthew, Wong Khai Lun, 24, has a job now thanks to the Malaysian Care programme. He is one of over a hundred special needs individuals working in Giant hypermarkets around the country. His supervisor, Stephen Gurusamy, is happy to have him working at their branch in The Mines Shopping Mall in Seri Kembangan, Selangor.

“He’s better than our other employees in so many ways. He has a good attitude, he works hard and he is honest. The others might find ways to skive off sometimes, but not Khai Lun. He always does his job,” said Gurusamy.

Khai Lun is very shy. When asked whether he enjoys his job, and if he has friends at work, he just smiles and nods shyly.

Malaysian Care’s special needs programme coordinator Pang Jee Ching works with individuals like Matthew and Khai Lun every day, and says that even though they can be prepared for the workplace, they still have difficulties making friends.

Slow learner Wong Khai Lun clocks in and out of work just like everybody else. After attending a job training programme run by Malaysian Care, Khai Lun now has a job arranging merchandise at the Giant hypermarket in The Mines shopping mall.

“Their main struggle is to be accepted, and that stems mainly from their experiences in school. Their self-esteem would be low when they first join us, and we have to build it back up.

“They struggle with friendships. They tell me that a lot. But once they find friends, they are very faithful. They appreciate it more,” she said.

Muhammad Razzaq Razali, 20, for example, couldn’t find any friends his age when he was a teenager, and his mother says he ended up having to “pay for friendship”.

“He’s not on the same wavelength with people his age, so he ends up making friends with younger kids, and sometimes it feels like he has to pay for their drinks, or their movie tickets for them to be friends with him,” said Razzaq’s mother, Kiswah Mohammad.

Working well
That aside, Razzaq is still an excitable 20-year-old man who has left quite an impression on his employers and colleagues at an ice-skating rink in Petaling Jaya.

Pyramid Ice assistant manager Bryan Law says that he has only received two complaints about Razzaq so far, and they were both over simple misunderstandings.

“He’s very shy, and sometimes, people misinterpret that as him being rude, because he doesn’t dare to look at people in the eye when he talks sometimes. But people like him are gifted – they have no attitude.

“He helps everyone, like putting on their skates for them, even though it’s not his job. In my experience, a lot of the guys here only help girls,” said Bryan with a grin.

Razzaq’s immediate supervisor, Murugam Aranasalam, 23, has been deeply moved by his experience of working with the football and Selangor FC fan.

The Dignity & Services supported living home in Taman Tun Dr. Ismail, Selangor allows special needs young adults to live there every weekend and learn how to do things like chores, cooking and taking public transport so they can eventually live independently.

“Even though he has a small problem, he’s like my younger brother, my best friend. Nowadays, when he’s not around, we feel like something is missing. We feel happier when he’s around, because we can call him and talk to him. He really is special, and I feel very encouraged looking at his life,” said Murugam, with his arm around a beaming Razzaq, who calls him “abang”.

Sunway Group public affairs assistant general manager Bernard Paul Netto explained that their job placement programme was created in 2005 to complement their special needs education programme at SMK Bandar Sunway, Selangor.

“We realised that after most of them finished school, they just go back home and have nothing to do. Since we have a hotel, mall and Sunway Lagoon, we thought ‘why not give them job placements there?’

“So far, we’ve given out 58 certificates to (special needs individuals) who have completed their job training,” said Bernard.

He added that the first five years of the programme was dedicated to preparing participants for life in a real working environment. They are now moving into the next phase which is to absorb some of them into the company’s operations – starting with Razzaq.

“He’s been an inspiration,” said Bernard of Razzaq. “If you asked me now, I would employ him and the special needs students over ‘normal’ people. They don’t have any attitude, and they don’t complain. That’s something I’ve learned from them. I don’t complain anymore. I feel lucky to have what I have.”

Special needs individuals have different forms and levels of disability, but according to executive director of advocacy group Dignity & Services (D&S), Mettilda John, their needs and struggles become quite similar as they approach young adulthood.

BEST FRIENDS: Pyramid Ice supervisor Murugam Aranasalam (R) says that whenever his "younger brother" Muhammad Razzaq Razali, a slow learner, isn't around, he feels that "something is missing".

D&S runs a home for “supported living”, where young adults aged 17 and above with learning disabilities are taught how to live independently from their families.

Participants of the programme live together in a double-storey house in KL over the weekend, learning how to do things like making their beds, taking public transport and cooking.

“We have a session where we let them talk about their feelings, and they often tell me about their dreams, about getting married, having children, where they’d like to work.

“People always assume that they don’t look for excitement, but that’s not true. They want to go out. Just like you and I, they want to live their lives and be independent from their parents,” said Mettilda.

Students from Monash University and Standard Chartered employees often visit the home during the weekends to spend time with the young adults. The week I visited, a group of students were taking some of them out for a movie.

“We learn a lot from living – going out with friends, talking to other people, and so on; but they need help with that. Too often we put them through therapy, but they need to learn how to live, how to clean, how to interact; things that we take for granted. “They don’t always realise when they are behaving inappropriately. So, it’s important for them to learn to socialise, and be around people apart from their family,” explained Mettilda.

Malaysian Care director of special needs services Clarissa Chang feels the support servicesfor special needs individuals in Malaysia need to be improved.

Khai Lun’s mother Patricia, however, says that trying to balance her son’s need for friendship and the struggle to learn how to be independent isn’t easy.

"My dilemma is that I want him to work, but I also want him to go out and have a social life, to make friends.

"We can give him everything at home, but he’s only human. He still wants to go out, to have friends. Other kids his age are having girlfriends, but he’s still getting used to working. And how long can we be there for him?” said Patricia.

Matthew’s mother, Loh Chee Ling, added: “In this country, we know we won’t get hand-outs. The Government support systems here for people like Matthew are 20 to 30 years behind. We’ve had to find our own solutions.”

After realising “something was wrong” when Khai Lun was five, Patricia took it upon herself to give her son the care and education he needed.

“I attended a three-year course on teaching special needs children just to take care of him. I remember bringing him to a doctor in Singapore, and they told me he had the intelligence of a seven-year-old child, but he was already 19. Can you imagine how sad I was?” she said.

Clarissa Chang, director of Malaysian Care’s special needs services, said: “In Malaysia, a big concern among parents for their special needs children is relationships, marriage and whether their children can handle a family. But we don’t have any support systems for that.

“In other countries like Australia, each (special needs) couple has a social worker to help them understand what marriage is all about from before and after their wedding.”

Patricia Wong has dedicated many years to taking care of her son Wong Khai Lun, who is a slow learner, but she says that support systems in Malaysia for people like Khai Lun need to improve because she can't be there for him forever.

Realising the need among special needs individuals to socialise and eventually enter long-term relationships, Malaysian Care has set-up a “Friendship Club”, of which Khai Lun is a committee member.

“The kids started it themselves, we just oversee it,” said Clarissa. “They have activities once a month, but we need young people to join and help them, so they feel comfortable around people their own age.”

Said Patricia: “If not, they will always be around aunties like us! They don’t feel comfortable when we’re around.”

When speaking about the Friendship Club, Khai Lun asked me, after some encouraging from his mother, if I knew any DJs who would be willing to help out for their upcoming “Dinner And Dance” event on Nov 19.

“We want someone who can create a fun atmosphere, so we can dance,” he revealed.

He admitted to being excited about the event, and said in Cantonese: “Yeah. I’ll get to see my old friends (from Malaysian Care). We don’t get to see each other very often.”

For more information on services available for people with learning disabilities, visit and

To know more about the Sunway job placement programme, contact Bernard Paul at

Friday, October 22, 2010

ONE VOICE: Oct 2010

Take a break, care-givers


Breaks are vital for the well-being of care-givers of children with special needs.

IT’S Saturday morning and Peter goes to Pemancar House in Glugor, Penang, as usual. He takes off his shoes, puts them on the shoe rack and prepares to walk straight into the house. He waves goodbye to his parents when they call out to him: “Pete, bye”. Then his parents leave with wide smiles on their faces, going off for a few hours to spend precious family time with their other children.

Peter, a 17-year-old with severe autism, is the second child of Mr and Mrs Lee. Everyday he spends his time roaming around his home as there are no available care-giving services suitable for his age and needs.

His mother, the main caregiver, has not taken a break since his birth. She was able to get her much-needed respite only after Pemancar House began operations in March this year. Pemancar House Respite Care Support Centre is a joint project between Asia Community Service (ACS) and Bold Association for Children with Special Needs Penang (Bold Penang).

Win-win: Respite care provides children with a change of environment and an opportunity to socialise with other children.

“There were times when we desperately needed someone to look after Peter so that we could attend to an emergency situation. But we just couldn’t get the help. So either my wife or I will have to stay with him. As my elder daughter grew older, she took up the emergency carer’s role. Still, this is a heavy responsibility for a 19-year-old,” said Mr Lee.

“Sometimes we really need a break to recharge ourselves and to spend more time with our other children,” he added.

Jason also goes to Pemancar House every Saturday morning. When he first started two months ago, he cried when he saw his mother leaving. Now he happily waves goodbye to her.

“I was so worried on the first day. I felt guilty for leaving him so that I could take a break,” said Vera, Jason’s mother. “But now I feel so relieved to be able to have a nice meal and do a bit of shopping with my visiting mother, knowing that Jason is safe in Pemancar House,” said Vera, a single mother.

There are many more parents out there who need a short break from their special needs children, but are not able to find it.

For most of us, going an outing with friends, shopping for groceries, or even attending a wedding, may sound trivial. But to families with special needs children, especially those with severe disabilities, and to single mothers like Vera, these are luxuries that are hard to come by.

Caring for someone can be a full-time job. When the task involves looking after a special needs child, the responsibility can be overwhelming and stressful for the caregiver.

The caregiver needs to take a break sometimes. Some caregivers may feel guilty or apprehensive about taking a break.

However, if the caregiver has been providing care for too long without taking a proper break, she or he may become ill, anxious or depressed. This can make life even more difficult for the caregiver and the person under his or her care. It is no wonder why some children end up in residential institutional care.

What these caregivers need is “respite care” or “short break care”. This concept of providing temporary relief to families caring for a child with a disability is fairly new in Malaysia.

Can respite care meet the needs of Malaysian families who have children with disabilities? Are Malaysians ready to take up the role of respite carer? To get some answers, a small survey was conducted last December. Based on the families’ responses, ACS and Bold Penang jointly piloted the Pemancar House Respite Care Support Centre.

Recently in August, we were fortunate to learn more about respite care from Luke and Rachel Bulpitt, a couple from Reading, England, who are registered foster carers and approved respite carers for children with special needs.

Luke (who works four days a week as a solicitor) and Rachel got involved in respite care when they were foster parents for a baby boy named Eric who had multiple disabilities from birth.

Eric required special care such as feeding through a tube, frequent mucous and phlegm removal through suction, and had to be frequently carried. The Bulpitt’s family life was severely affected by caring for Eric. They were stressed out and hardly had time for their two daughters. They reached out for respite care.

Having experienced the benefits, they decided to take on the role of providing respite to other families after Eric passed away.

In Britain, local councils are legally required to provide some kind of respite care after a survey discovered that this is the most needed service for families of children with disabilities. Respite care can be centre-based like Pemancar House, in a respite carer’s home, or in the home of the person with disability. The Bulpitt family runs their respite care mostly in their home but Rachel sometimes provides respite care in the home of a person who is dependent on an oxygen machine.

From their experience as user and caregiver, the Bulpitt family shared with us the importance of having respite care. Respite care provides the parents with a break that helps them to de-stress and to recharge their batteries. As a result, respite care helps to reduce abuse, neglect, and/or abandoning of a child with disability. It also provides the parents with opportunities to have quality time with their other children.

Last but not least, it provides opportunities for children with disabilities to have a change of environment and to have social interaction. This is particularly important for those who are home-bound or come from single parent families.

All names have been changed to safeguard confidentiality. Asia Community Service and Bold Association for Children with Special Needs Penang are NGOs servicing children and young adults with special needs. To learn more about Pemancar House Respite Care service, call 04-658 7857 /017-478 5193 or e-mail: respite

One Voice is a monthly column which serves as a platform for professionals, parents and careproviders of children with learning difficulties. Feedback on the column can be sent to For enquiries of services and support groups, call Malaysian Care ( 03-9058 2102) or Dignity & Services ( 03-7725 5569).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Supported Living Program 20th October 2010

Activity: OPTIONS & Bake4Fund making brownies project for Hotel Maya
Objective: To enable the individuals to experience on how to make brownies with the help of professional chefs.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Supported Living Program 16th Oct 2010

Activity: Farewell Speech from OPTIONS to Monash students.
Objective: To enable individuals to express their gratitude and thanks to the Monash students.

Activity: Farewell Karaoke for Monash students
Objective: To enable individuals to have fun with friends.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Supported Living Program 8-9-10 October 2010

Activity: Bake4Fund- making Fudge Brownies and peeling cempedak for Chempedak Muffins.
Objective: To teach individuals on how to bake brownies and peeling cempedak as part of their preparation for a future project with Maya Hotel,KLCC in October 2010

Activity: Fundraising Futsal with Monash Alumni.
Objective: To enable individuals to play sports and having fun while raising funds for D&S.

Activity: First Aid by Monash
Objective: To teach individuals on how to keep themselves safe and how to treat cut and burn wounds.

Activity: Bowling at PinJunction, Cineleisure
Objective: To enable individuals to have fun among friends.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Supported Living Program 1-2 Oct 2010

Activity: Bake4fund Project: Baking Pandan Muffins
Objective: To teach individuals on how to bake muffins as part of their preparation for a future project with Maya Hotel, KLCC in October.

Activity: Celebrating birthdays for the month of October and November.
Objective: To celebrate each person as a unique individual and value each other as friends

Activity: PS the Children, Personal Safety Programme - Feelings
Objective: To enable individual to understand and explore their own feelings.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Supported Living Program 25-26 Sept 2010

Activity: Group discussion about the day`s news.
Objective: To enable members to be aware of the news all around the world.

Activity: Olympic Day 7km Run 2010 ( mainstream category )
Objective: To participate in mainstream sports and be a visible part of the community

Activity: Dignity & Services and OPTIONS open day
Objective: To create awareness amongst the Chinese speaking community to know about the work of Dignity & Services and OPTIONS.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

ONE VOICE: September 2010


Their teaching content may be different, but their intent is the same. Parents in Selangor and Perak are taking the initiative to set up schools to cater to autistic children who would otherwise fall through the cracks of the education system.
By Pang Hin Yue

AFTER helming the National Autism Society of Malaysia (NASOM) as its chairman for eight years , Mr Teh Beng Choon is still all fired up to push for changes for people with learning disabilities. Under his leadership, 16 nationwide centres providing Early Intervention Programme (EIP) and three vocational centres have been set up.

In addition to these, NASOM has its own one-stop centre for assessment and diagnosis that is supported by a dedicated team of experts that include three psychologists, two speech therapists and an occupational therapist. It is no small feat , for a nominal sum of fee, NASOM provides a multitude of services that cater to a wide ranging group of people, from pre-schoolers to adults . All of which are geared towards educating, empowering and liberating people with autism. And now Teh is taking it to the next level.

He is planning to set up a special school for autistic children who have been denied of a place in government schools owing to their multiple disabilities or who have not benefitted from the government’s special education programme. “It is open to all who one way or another, can’t fit into the current education system,” he explains.

He is targeting for the school to be set up by next year . For a token sum for rent , SP Setia Foundation has provided a premise for NASOM to run its EIP in Setia Alam, Shah Alam since April this year. NASOM hopes to expand to include its latest school pilot project. Although Teh and his secretariat staff are working hard to convince a major housing developer and the State government to support their endeavour to have a permanent site for the new school, he feels the time has come to, “just do it”.

What will set the new school apart from others? “It will be driven by parents. They will be the ones giving inputs and getting involved directly ,” he says. He believes that parents can make invaluable contributions given their experience in caring and managing their autistic children.
Teh’s empathy for parents who are hard pressed for an alternative school for autistic children stems from his own share of ups and downs in securing his son’s rights to education. Although diagnosed with autism, his highly intelligent son sat for UPSR and passed with flying colours. But he was denied entry to secondary school because he was under 12 when he sat for the national exam. That left Teh with no option except to admit his son to a private school and seek exemption from the Education Ministry. Today at 15, his son is studying for a foundation programme for a master degree in pharmacy at a leading university. Would the outcome be different had his son remained in the mainstream school system? “My son enjoys his time at the university because he is finally learning by exploring,” he says.

Teh strongly believes that children with autism – whether they are high or low functioning – should be given every opportunity to realise their full potential. Just because they can’t fit into the mainstream school system, it does not mean they should be denied of their right to be the best they can be.

“The conventional education system requires children to learn a wide variety of subjects, and may be in languages that they may not be accustomed to. Children with developmental disorders may take a longer time to learn them, a situation which is not afforded by our school system. Further, their innate impairments may hinder their learning process. Consequently they develop a poor self image and see themselves as failures, thereby impeding their progress. This is further compounded if carers also give up. Which is why the new school will be unconventional,” he explains.

Instead of teachers, there will be facilitators determining what each child wants to learn and what he is capable of learning, says Teh. Facilitators will explore various learning options until they find those that bring out the best in the child, he adds. For instance, if a child is more proficient in English, then his programme will be structured based on his spoken language.
“Ultimately, the learning process is to ensure the child is supported in areas where he shows potential , be it in the field of academia, music, art or cooking and work towards independence and job skills,” he says.

Towards this end, Teh invites parents and critics to give their thoughts and ideas how best the school should be operated and email to him at .

Being a non-profit organisation, he is only too aware that for any of NASOM’s programmes to succeed and remain sustainable, it has to have the financial security and strong teams of staff supporting them . For instance, NASOM spends RM1 million annually to ensure 61 students across the country have teachers aides to help them study in mainstream schools.

For members of the public who wish to donate towards NASOM’s causes, he cautions against giving their money to any third party. “NASOM is not affliliated to any foundation or organization,” he stresses, adding that all donations are tax deductible and that NASOM welcomes volunteers.


For more details, contact NASOM Secretariat at 35A Jln SS21/37, 47400 PJ. Website: Email:, tel: 03-77104098.


DETERMINED not to settle for less, eight parents together with two advisors in Ipoh, Perak decided to set up a school for their autistic children. Calling themselves , Autism Support Association For Parents (ASAP), this motley crowd of parents went ahead and opened a school this year. With an undisclosed sum of money given by a generous donor, they found a double storey house and had it renovated. Says ASAP committee member, Tan Pek Imm, the members are thankful to find a retired teacher who accepted the challenge to run the school with the help of a teacher aide.

The school sessions are held in the afternoon, from 2-5pm with an enrollment capacity of six students. Mathematics, Science and English are taught based on the Singapore syllabus. “After examining the various teaching methods and contents, we settled for the Singapore syllabus because it allows our children the flexibility to take the secondary school level exam, one subject at a time,” explains Tan. She travelled to Singapore, spending time talking to officials at the island state’s education ministry and went away impressed.

“We prepare our kids to sit for ‘N’ Levels, ‘O’ Levels and ‘A’ Levels. We may also plan for them to sit for Cambridge exam upon completion of Year 6 in order to expose them to having exam in a public hall,” she says, adding that the school also offers other forms of interventional therapy for speech, behaviour and motor skills.

“ Next year, we plan to increase the number of classes to three to cater to a total of 18 students. The sessions will be held in the morning,” explains Tan whose son aged 13, had previously attended an international school in Ipoh before settling in his new school.

To ensure the viability of the school project and to garner support and services for families with autism in Perak, ASAP endeavours to increase its fund raising efforts with help from its patron, Datin Grace Lee.

ASAP invites parents to enroll their children at the new school. ASAP also welcomes those who are interested to be teachers to write in. For details, contact Charlotte at 016-4227076 (email: or Tan at 016-5535803 (email:

Monday, September 20, 2010

Supported Living Program 18th Sept 2010

Activity: PS the Children, Personal Safety Programme - Introduction
Objective: To teach our members about personal safety and appropriate social skills by Lai Cheng from PS the Children.

Supported Living Program 4th Sept 2010

Activity:Group discussion on the day`s news.
Objective: To enable members to be aware of the news all around the world.

Activity: Voting for OPTIONS House Committee members.
Objective: To teach members to nominate and elect a person of their choice to be in charge of organizing activities in OPTIONS.

Activity: Wrapping gifts
Objective: To teach individuals basic skills for wrapping a gift.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Supported Living Program 28-29 Aug 2010

Activity: 4 members went out for lunch with a budget of RM 10.00 each with Monash University Students.
Objective: To enable individual to learn basic budgeting skills and give feedback to the rest of the group.

Activity: Basic computer skills
Objective: To enable individual to learn basic computer skills and improve their hand-eye coordination.

Activity: Cleaning kitchen cabinets.
Objective: To maintain the cleanliness of OPTIONS house

Monday, August 23, 2010

Supported Living Program 21 August 2010

Activity: 4 members went out for lunch with a budget of RM 10.00 each with Monash University Students.
Objective: To enable individual to learn basic budgeting skills and give feedback to the rest of the group.

ii) Activity:Painting kitchen wall which was infested with termites.
Objective: To maintain the condition of OPTIONS house

iii) Activity : Celebrating Jason's 28th birthday
Objective : To celebrate each person as a unique individual and value each other as friends