Khairy Moots National Autism Council As Autism Rates Rise

Khairy Jamaluddin says autism must be understood, not contained or controlled, and looked at from the perspective of people on the spectrum.

KUALA LUMPUR, July 15 – Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said today that he will recommend to the Cabinet to form a National Autism Council, amid increasing numbers of autistic children in Malaysia.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) organised a two-day “Strategy Transformation and Empowering Autism Care” workshop from yesterday with representatives from other ministries – the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, the Education Ministry, and the Higher Education Ministry – as well as non-governmental organisations (NGOs), parents, and patient advocates.

“I have agreed with the proposal for the formation of a National Autism Council that will bring together all relevant stakeholders to come up with interventions based on science and facts that can better assist and support individuals on the [autism] spectrum and their families,” Khairy tweeted.

“We need to move away from looking at autism as something that needs to be contained or controlled. It’s something that needs to be understood and we need to look from the perspective of the people on the spectrum,” he was quoted as saying.

The number of diagnoses for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in Malaysia has risen steadily over the past decade, according to MOH data.

The latest annual figure for 2021 showed a total of 589 children aged 18 and below being diagnosed with ASD, up five per cent from 562 children in 2020. 

According to an MOH study in 2005, which used the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT) screener for ASD, the prevalence of ASD in Malaysia is between one and two per 1,000 among children aged 18 months to three years. The study also found that male children are four times more likely to get ASD than female children.

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