KUALA LUMPUR – September, 2017: When her first born was diagnosed with autism, Nory Heizel Mohd. Fakharuddin was devastated. Understandably so.
Worse, at three years old, her daughter whose name she did not want to reveal, would’t even talk to anyone, including her.
However, everything changed when she enrolled her daughter with Permata Kurnia, a government-owned special needs and early childhood education centre, two years ago.
After about six months with Permata Kurnia, her daughter showed tremendous improvements. Now she can utter a few words such as ‘I want’, ‘I eat’ to express herself and communicate.
“We are blessed actually, to be able to enrol in this programme and I think more of this institution need to be made available in Malaysia” suggested Nory Heizel.
Permata is a series of education programmes initiated by the prime minister’s wife Datuk Seri Rosmah Mansor, with Permata Kurnia being a program tailored to the needs of children with autism.
SBut snce its inception in 2007, Permata has faced incessant politically-related criticisms, particularly over the funding it gets from the government, with some even going as far as calling it a waste of taxpayers’ money.
“They are simply ignorant! Before they say anything or type anything about Permata Kurnia they should first go and see what Permata Kurnia is all about,” said Permata Kurnia programme director Dr. Hasnah Toran.
According to her, Permata Kurnia has done a lot of good, especially in terms of cultivating public awareness on autism since its formation in 2014.
Hasnah said its education centre in Sentul has never turned down any applicant based on political affiliations, while parents earning less than RM4,000 per month are exempted from paying the enrollment fee.
“Since the centre started in 2014, the demand for our services has increased tremendously. In fact, we now have over 300 students.
“Because the centre has reached maximum capacity, we had to stop taking new applicants,” said Hasnah.
In terms of the educational curriculum, Permata Kurnia offers an array of interventions courses such as occupational and speech therapies.
The centre’s speech therapist Ennie Yong explained that educating a child with autism is no simple matter.
“There is no standard procedure for handling them… it’s more of a case by case basis.
“This is because every child with autism progresses at a different rate and we have to make sure they can understand how communication works in the first place,” she said.
On a poser over how she deals with the negative public perception of working with Permata Kurnia, Yong and her colleague Noratikah Mohd. Apni said they have simply outgrown it.
“I told myself that my job is to guide the kids towards a better future, so I felt I can simply shove away the criticisms that were hurled my way,” said Noratikah.