Thursday, April 29, 2010

Supported Living Program 24 April 2010

i) One Mind, One Heart, One Cause a charity concert in support of the work of NASOM at KLCC Plenary Hall.

To teach our youth to travel by public transport and managing the time needed for traveling to this event. Managing thier own budget and making choices on what and where to eat and paying for their own food.

Supported Living Program 23 April 2010

i) Setting up a booth at Mid Valley Exhibition Centre, Level 3, Hall 3, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
and talking about D&S and OPTIONS to the public. He was doing a great job distributing our leaflets and raising public awareness.
To enable Wai Keen, an OPTIONS member to help in Disability Awareness

One Voice April 2010

New hope for autistic children


WHEN Dennis Lee is with his daughter, Sasha, nine, a camera is always at hand. Pictures of their bonding are dutifully put in her “memory book” and at the end of the day, Lee goes through it with Sasha, recounting their time together. Lee labels the emotions as he goes along. He also videotapes his one-on-one time with Sasha.

Similarly, Sasha’s daily contact with the people around her – be it sibling, relatives or her teachers – is also captured on camera to help her commit them to memory.

Everything that Lee does with his daughter is done mindfully, taking care that his words and deeds are in tandem with the principles of Relationship Development Intervention (RDI).

Psychologist Dr Steven Gutstein had noticed in his clinical work that many children with autism were emotionally and socially inept even though they had gained significant progress in language acquisition and academic achievements through therapies.

So 10 years ago, Gutstein developed the RDI Treatment Programme for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) to address these deficits by taking the affected families through the various developmental stages which their autistic children had missed out.

Under the guidance of Jennifer Peters, the sole RDI certified consultant in Malaysia, Lee and Sasha are journeying together to put into practice what Gutstein calls, “reciprocal relationship”. “The child’s role is the key to all our engagement,” explains Lee.

Peters, a speech language pathologist with over 17 years of experience, decided to add RDI consultancy to her list of services after undergoing a two-year training programme under Gutstein and his team in Houston, Texas, the United States.

“I went into it because more than 80% of the clients that I see have autism, and RDI seems to be the missing piece to help them connect cognitively, emotionally and socially,” says Peters in her new Carespeech Centre at Jalan Yap Kwan Seng, Kuala Lumpur.

Autism is a brain disorder that impedes, in varying degrees, learning, communication and social skills. About one in 150 has the disorder.

Mind reading

In his book, Mindblindness: An Essay On Autism And Theory Of Mind, Simon Baron-Cohen postulates that persons with autism are unable to suss out the social and emotional cues of people around them as a result of selective impairment in mind reading.

Most people respond to those around them by gauging their gestures, facial expressions and tone of voice. But this natural ability is mostly absent in persons with autism. So despite acquiring language skills, many with ASD have difficulty engaging in meaningful, free-flowing conversations and they cannot adapt according to social settings.

Hence Gutstein believes that enhancing their emotional intelligence is pertinent. In his introductory guide for parents (, Gutstein cites a study done in the United States in 2001 which reveals that though the majority of autistic children gained grounds in language and academic development, few had gone on to work and live independently when they reached adulthood.

Over 65% of them had almost no social contact outside of their family.

The problem with most conventional therapies is that they promote rote learning, says Gutstein. They may carry out conversations based on what they learnt from social scripts for different settings but many still can’t relate in a natural, spontaneous manner. Once conversations fall out of the scripts, they are at a loss.

With all this in mind, Peters focuses on training parents to meet the RDI protocol that helps their children get back on track developmentally.

The onus is on parents to videotape their time with their children, and Peters reviews them once in 10 days and teach parents how to analyse their tapes.

Because RDI is parent-centred, Peters says: “I should work myself out of the job!” Her ultimate aim is to get the parents to become the prime teachers. So it is no surprise that when parents engage her services, more than 50% of the time is spent with the former.

The first three years are devoted to transferring skills to parents who in turn apply them on their children. They include skills to foster friendship, empathy and a desire to share personal experiences, Peters explains. “Ultimately, it is to get the children to think and respond dynamically,” she adds.

Jennifer Peters of Carespeech can be reached at 03-2161 6618 (e-mail: website: 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). E-mail:

One Voice February 2010


THE seeds of hope for our children to live independently were planted when we mothers started a monthly cooking class in January 2008. As the children’s interest grew in tandem with their confidence in handling knives and hot ovens, we turned it into a weekly affair. In July 2009, Bake4Fund was set up.

That our children have reached this point where they can learn and earn, and be engaged in an activity they find fun and fulfilling, has given us every reason to rejoice and be thankful.

Like any parent with special needs children, our main focus is to provide them with every interventional therapy possible to help them realise their full potential and equip them for the future. At the heart of it, we desire to see our children lead a purpose-driven life.

Our kids who have an Autism spectrum disorder may be less articulate and appear to be socially inept at times, but they are no less able in showing their affection.

Culinary fun: A cooking class in progress.

Instead of looking at the doom and gloom around us, we figured there must be something we could do with our children. The answer was found in the kitchen.

With our combined experiences and knowledge gained from attending courses on sensory integration therapy, behavioural modification therapy and mediated learning, we realised that the kitchen is a perfect place for incidental learning.

Before we officially turned the kitchen into our classroom, we noticed our children liked to hang out in the kitchen whenever we cooked. Because kitchen was never associated with “therapy time”, they learnt naturally by observing. Soon they offered to stir the pot, peel the garlic and mix the cake batter. The absence of a maid made it a necessity for us mothers to spend time in the kitchen and it turned out to be a blessing.

Having worked in a residential home in Auckland, New Zealand, for adults with learning disabilities where they are encouraged to live independently, we realised that one is never too young to learn how to cook and bake.

There is something about the kitchen that draws people together. There is no shortage of laughter and team spirit when they hang out in the kitchen.

As parents we sometimes get so caught up in wanting our special needs children to be more academically inclined, which usually means learning in a highly structured environment.

Without realising it, we sometimes miss the opportunities for them to learn that are presented in our homes.

In fact, they sooner they get comfortable in the kitchen, the better because there will come a time when they need to live independently.

The kitchen provides an excellenet venue for these children to learn to take care of their own meals, and even earn money to support themselves.

So we are learning, just like our kids, that there are ways and means to inject the element of fun in learning at home. Getting the kids to peel vegetables and fruits of different textures not only helps them overcome their tactile problem, the very act of peeling helps improve their motor skills. The same goes for the use of knives.

Initially we were worried whether they could handle sharp objects without hurting themselves. The knife is an important tool in the kitchen. So they have lots of opportunities to practise.

They started with butter knives and have since progressed to using proper ones for slicing and dicing. They did cut their fingers occasionally but they know that all this is part of the process of learning and growing up.

They have learnt that the first thing they need to do before they start cooking is to wash their hands and put on their aprons.

Sure, there were occasions when there were more egg shells than yolks and egg whites in the cake mixture. But at least the kids have overcome their sensory problem of handling eggs and have the courage and strength to crack them.

Usually we repeat the same recipe a few times until they can master the sequence of steps, identify the ingredients required, and read the labels.

We teach mathematics by using measuring cups and spoons which are marked clearly as 1, ½, ¾ and ¼. The digital scale is very helpful in teaching them to understand addition and subtraction. Because they can read the numbers on the scale when they add or reduce the ingredient until it matches with the one listed, they get the idea of what it means to “add” and “take away”.

We can’t say they have fully grasped the concept but they are getting there because mathematics is a subject they struggle with. The oven’s digital clock is also helpful in understanding the concept of timing. For instance, if the cookies require 18 minutes to bake, we teach them to use the digital clock to increase the time from zero to 18. When the timer buzzes, they know the cookies are done.

Besides getting them familiarised with the steps involved in baking and cooking, we also try to find healthy alternatives as ingredients. So usually we have oats, bran and flaxseed as well as organic molasses sugar added to our recipes.

Since we started selling, the opportunities for them to learn baking increases in addition to their weekly classes. The money gained is saved with the view of setting up a proper place with a big, well equipped kitchen where they can learn, earn and live independently. We hope to see the day when an inclusive cafĂ© is opened where our children can chill out, cook, paint, play musical instruments, sing, dance and do many more activities without being judged “odd”.

Bake4fund can be reached at One Voice is a monthly column which serves as a platform for professionals, parents and careproviders of children with learning difficulties. For enquiries of services and support groups, please call Malaysian Care (TEL 03-9058 2102) or Dignity & Services (TEL 03-7725 5569). E-mail:

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Supported Living Overnight Program 17-18 April 2010

i) Group work to discuss the articles in the days Newspapers

Objectives: To enable members to be aware of what is happening around the world.

Supported Living Day Program 10 April 2010

i) Tidying the storage boxes and things under the stairs

Objectives: To encourage participation of individuals in keeping the house tidy