H'apples Kindergarten
Little Mandarin House, Bangsar
Little Angel Kindergarten
Knowledge Tree Montessori Kindergarten, Ara Damansara
Beyond Kids Montessori, USJ Subang Jaya & Bandar Puteri Puchong

Special Needs Children | Resources in Malaysia

by on 09/12/2015 7530

Updated 4th May 2020


UNESCO

Facilities and resources for children with special needs in Malaysia have developed tremendously over the past 10 years, but we still have a long way to go. While UNESCO estimates that, on average, 10% of the population in developing countries have special needs, Malaysia's Education Blueprint, 2013 - 2025 states that a mere 1% of our population has been identified as having special education needs.

This significantly low percentage when compared with UNESCO's global average can only mean that:

  • Many children with special needs in Malaysia have not been identified, or
  • Their disabilities have been noticed but parents/caregivers are not aware of or are not able to undertake specialised interventions that can help. It is also likely these children are not receiving the support they require to develop and to achieve their full potential in life.

Ministry of Education

It is not surprising that the Education Blueprint goes on to say that the current waiting time for the assessment and intervention of developmental issues in children in Malaysia exceeds six months -- largely due to limited specialists such as clinical psychologists, speech therapists, and audiologists; the under-utilisation of screening tools, and a lack of standardised approaches for detection. Although the Ministry of Education says that it intends to forge strong collaborations with the Ministry of Health to fast track early identification and diagnosis, parents today probably cannot afford to wait for these plans to be realised.

Experts agree that early diagnosis of the child's special needs is important. Children whose conditions are not identified during their early years may miss out on getting the best outcomes from intervention programmes, whose chief aim is to reduce the adverse effects of a child's underlying disability. For example, in autism, the best results have been reported in children who started treatment as early as two years of age.

Despite all the above limitations, let us take comfort in the fact that the Malaysian government and Malaysian society as a whole are beginning to recognise that our children with special needs have equal rights with the rest of our population and cannot be overlooked. They have the right to be educated, to be gainfully employed, and to have a reasonable quality of life. We should also be encouraged by what NGOs and other entities have done in the past and the many new facilities that have recently started up to help our special children.

NGOs & Parent-Initiated Facilities

Any parent would want to do the best they can for their child in providing for his/her everyday needs, in giving love and care, and in helping their child to grow physically, intellectually, socially and emotionally. However, when the child has a special need, this "best" takes on a whole new level that involves lifelong commitment, unlimited patience and unconditional love. The ultimate wish of every parent is that their special needs child would grow up to be able to take care of himself/herself -- especially when the parent is no longer there for his/her loved one.

That is why today, besides the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as NASOM and Kiwanis Down Syndrome Foundation that were set up to support children with special needs, we often find many initiatives that were spearheaded mainly or partially by the parents themselves. (to view some of these NGOs, you can go to Kiddy123.com and search for "Special Needs" in kiddy123.com's directory)

These initiatives demonstrate the determination of parents to give their child the best facilities and resources possible. Among these is CADS Enhancement Centre, a non-profit organisation set up by a group of parents who pooled their resources together to set up the centre in 2003 when the elementary school where their children with special needs attended closed down due to management problems.

Another is Kairos Resources where 15 years ago, a group of concerned parents diligently searched for resources on setting up a special needs centre, supplied these resources to their church leaders, and persuaded them to take on the project, with the parents chipping in to help in the initial stages of the project.

Persatuan Kanak-Kanak Istimewa Kajang (PKIK), which was set up 20 years ago to provide services for children/persons with learning disabilities, also started out because of appeals from parents. Today, volunteers comprising parents and other individuals sit in the Management Committee and are responsible for carrying out the objectives and management of PKIK.

Private Sector Initiatives

Children with special needs in Malaysia are now more fortunate as more and more facilities and resources are available in our country for disabilities such as:

  • Cognition and learning difficulties
  • Behavioural, emotional and social difficulties
  • Communication and interaction difficulties
  • Sensory and physical difficulties

The increasing demand has initiated the setting up of specialised centres that offer fully integrated multidisciplinary therapy services to support individuals with developmental delays.  

Besides these centres, there are those that solely offer therapy. One example is SI World, a well-established group offering sensory integration therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and physiotherapy to help those with special needs achieve better physical and psychological development. Conditions that are treated include autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, developmental coordination disorder (dyspraxia), language disorder, speech sound disorder, social communication disorder, specific learning disorder (dyslexia, dyscalculia), cerebral palsy, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). SI World has 15 centres throughout Malaysia: twelve in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, one in Sabah, Kedah and Perak respectively.

For more information, contact the following centres for assistance: THINK Enrichment Centre, Desa ParkCity; Headstart Academy, Shah Alam; iSNC, Subang Jaya; HappyLand Psychology & Therapy Sdn. Bhd., Johor Bahru; Sinar Ceria Therapy Centre, Wangsa Maju; Autism Behavioral Centre (ABC), Bangsar; Oasis Place, Kuala Lumpur; SI World.

Neuroscience

Programmes based on neuroscientific research are also now available in Malaysia. They include programmes like neurofeedback training, which is a type of biofeedback that uses non-invasive sensors that are placed on the scalp to measure brain waves. Using this realtime display of electroencephalography (EEG), they can measure specific brain patterns. This programme also uses scientifically proven neurofeedback to engage the brain's neuro-plasticity (its natural ability to change) to teach self-regulation to children with special needs. The training is aimed at exercising the brain's neurons via visual and auditory cues to attain a healthy level of vitality and build neuron connections that will lead to increased attention, learning and memory.

For other neuroscience programme offerings, please refer to: HappyLand Psychology & Therapy Sdn. Bhd., Johor Bahru; Apple King, Kajang

With these developments in special needs education taking place in Malaysia, the way ahead looks good for our children. The private sector is beginning to respond to the demand for such services in Malaysia and the government has stated in the Education Blueprint that it has plans to improve inclusion programmes at the early childhood education level. It is indeed time that Malaysian society recognises that children with special needs have as much right to equal opportunities as anyone of us.