Autism awareness exists, but acceptance lacking in Brunei

|     Aziz Idris     |

AUTISM awareness is high in Brunei, however, acceptance of people with autism is still low. Only with acceptance will people start taking action to support the cause of the autism-affected.

This was observed by Society for the Management of Autism Related issues in Training, Education and Resources (SMARTER) Brunei President Malai Haji Abdullah bin Malai Haji Othman during a press conference to share details of the celebrations for the 11th World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) on April 2, 2018.

“After 17 years of advocacy, Alhamdulillah, awareness on people with autism in Brunei is there… and that is why we have strong supporters throughout these years, collaborating with us in organising fundraisers and activities to support people with autism.”

However, he was quick to point out that awareness is not the only answer.

“What is more important is acceptance, only then action will follow,” he said, adding that acceptance can be developed only with the involvement of parents.

The SMARTER president revealed that his centre has received some 20 referrals from parents since the beginning of 2018, and six are now attending the specialised programmes conducted by the centre.

SMARTER Brunei has obtained the highest scores (gold stars) in 14 areas rated by the Autism Programme Quality Indicator, New York, which is on par with the National Autistic Society United Kingdom. It is the most affordable and reliable autism centre in the Sultanate.

Society for the Management of Autism Related issues in Training, Education and Resources (SMARTER) Brunei President Malai Haji Abdullah bin Malai Haji Othman speaks at the press conference. – AZIZ IDRIS

Carrying the theme ‘Empowering Women and Girls with Autism’, this year the WAAD celebration will see SMARTER Brunei collaborating with several companies and non-government agencies (NGOs) to bring attention on autism, a pervasive disorder that affects tens of millions of people around the world, including Brunei.

To start off the celebrations, the centre will be collaborating with Supercars Owners Brunei to organise a ‘Supercar Charity Gathering’ on March 24 at The Rizqun International Hotel, Gadong from 2pm to 6pm, with 100 per cent of the proceeds to go to SMARTER Brunei.

The centre will also join forces with New Resolution Fest (NRF) to organise a ‘Beach Clean-Up’ on March 31, followed by the ‘Beach Bliss’ on April 1 at the Berakas Forest Reserve.

Representatives from Green Brunei and Fitness Zone will be in-charge of activities during the day.

The highlight of the celebration will be the ‘Light It up Blue’ campaign at the Dermaga Diraja in the capital on April 2, starting 8.30pm.

Members of the public can join the cause by lighting commercial buildings or houses in “blue” for one week starting April 2.

The Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Women’s Leadership Academy (WLA) Alumni Network will join SMARTER Brunei to celebrate this occasion and showcase how they are working to improve the acceptance and inclusivity of differently-abled women across Asean.

“Through this, we will show the world that Brunei, as one nation, is united in understanding, accepting and supporting individuals with Autism,” added Malai Haji Abdullah.

Members of the public can do their part in supporting the cause by sending donations such as clothing, furniture, household or any other items to the allocated donations boxes available during the events leading up to WAAD 2018.

For throughout April, SMARTER Brunei will also allow fund transfer via Baiduri Bank and Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam (BIBD).

For Baiduri customers, donations can be transferred to SMARTER Brunei’s account number 09-00-110-232519.

For BIBD customers, donations can be transferred to SMARTER Autism Shop’s account number 00-001-01-0036064.

“The donations will be used to ensure that the centre will continue to provide world-class quality service to individuals with autism under SMARTER Brunei,” Malai Haji Abdullah said.

For further inquiries, contact SMARTER Brunei at 7172991 (hotline).