This paper looks at the gap in provision of early childhood care, education and therapy services for those with special needs with a specific focus on our experiences with the IDEAS Autism Centre (IAC), a full day child care centre for children with autism which includes education and therapy as well. The need for early intervention centres catering to parents from low-income households is not being adequately met by government or even private sector players. Based on the experiences of the IAC we believe that there are two main challenges to providing affordable early intervention services for low income households in Malaysia:
1) The financial sustainability – covering the high costs per student for early intervention programmes.
2) The registration process – with the Social Welfare Department or JKM. The paper asserts that such centres need to operate as social enterprises to sustain the quality of service they provide while reaching children who most need these services. In light of this, this paper explores some potential avenues of sustainable funding that may create more a feasible model for early intervention care, education and therapy centres. The registration process with the Social Welfare Department (JKM) can be cumbersome and confusing. In this paper we take a look at these requirements and if they are necessary to ensuring quality and affordable early intervention centres or not. Sharing the experiences of IAC in addressing the two challenges above we hope will be valuable to others who are currently providing or looking to provide similar services. Additionally, we hope there will be a shift in policies to encourage more entrants to the market for provision of affordable early intervention care, education and therapy.