Policy IDEAS

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Once regarded as a rare occurrence, the incidence of autism is now on the rise in Malaysia. This case study explores the level of support available to parents of children with autism through interviews with stakeholders in the field. Four key areas were examined: education and care, healthcare, family and society as well as long term planning. To understand the mechanisms through which income levels influence the parents’ ability to obtain support, three in-depth interviews were conducted with families from low, middle and high income brackets.

Findings from the research indicate that while there are some services and supports available, large gaps remain in all four areas. The key findings indicate that there is shortage of qualified care and education professionals, waitlists are long and the cost for private healthcare care is still prohibitive and there are an insufficient number of public spaces and businesses that take into account the needs of individuals with autism. Additionally, support services for long term planning such as employment and independent living are lacking for families from all income ranges. With this in mind the author recommends that three areas be looked into – training and awareness about autism for a wider audience, provision of more comprehensive forms of care and targeted and flexible financial assistance. This needs to be done to ease the pressures faced by families who have individuals with autism as well as ensure that all individuals with autism are provided the opportunity to maximise their potential and contribute to our society.

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