THERE is nothing more emotionally hurtful than to be called “stupid”, “mad” and the like, not just for the child that the label was intended for but also for the parents and the family.
Such is the insensitivity that families of children with special needs have to put up with. Many children with special needs look normal. In many cases, only after spending time with them can you notice the difference, like having difficulty paying attention or holding a conversation.
Today, there are programmes that can help these children overcome their weaknesses so they can learn, develop and integrate with society. But such efforts to increase awareness about their special needs and how to help them, have to be a continuous process.
Come Saturday, a group of volunteers made up of caregivers, educators and children with learning disabilities will walk together in an event called A Silent Walk In The Night at Central Park Bandar Utama 1, Petaling Jaya, from 3pm to 8pm.
It is organised by an advocacy movement for people with learning and intellectual disabilities called Raise Voice @ Dignity and Services, by Dignity and Services Sdn Bhd.
“Through this event, we want to remind society that these children with their aspirations can shine brightly if given a helping hand,” says Rebecca Jane Thomas, an educator who works with children with learning disabilities. “The struggles faced by this community and their caregivers cannot be ignored. We should strive to empower and integrate them into society. With proper guidance, some of them can become professionals and leading corporate figures.” The event will start with “raising their voices” through musical performances — bands, choirs and solos. Local group Band3, flutist Dr Radhakrishnan, 12-year-old autistic singer Umar (who has been performing since the age of 3) and an autistic choir put together by Brian John Yim are in the line-up. That is the first autistic choir in the world and it has also been recognised by the Malaysian Book of Records.
There will be food sale, games and creative and educational activities as well.
The event also offers opportunities for parents to sign up with the organisation, stating their needs and making the connection with those rendering specialised services.
The highlight of the evening will be the walk, where they will first light up the Torch and then spread the flame to the next candles or torches. Before the walk, a group of special children will hold candles, each to signify hope of a meaningful life and to celebrate the life and inspiration that each child brings to our community. You are encouraged to bring your own candle, lantern or torch. This act is to symbolise support towards improving the lives of children with disabilities, like a flame of hope.
The walk, which will be carried out in silence, will last for an hour. The silence is to signify the voice that is not heard in terms of advocating the rights of people with learning disabilities. “In silence, it is our hope that the event will contribute towards what is already being done to integrate people with learning disabilities into society at large,” says Thomas.
“Following the event, we hope to have regular forums involving experts so parents, caregivers and teachers can better manage children with learning disabilities.” There will be prizes for the most creative lights. Registration fee is RM10 a person.
For details, email Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The writer volunteers at the Special Children Society of Ampang. After more than two decades of grappling with the system, she finds that the whole experience is just one big learning curve. You can reach her at email@example.com.