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Spotlight on promoting inclusiveness among people with different abilities

Izah Azahari

The Society for the Management of Autism Related issues in Training, Education and Resources (SMARTER) Brunei organised the World Autism Awareness Day 2022 Forum yesterday titled ‘Empowering Inclusion in the Endemic Phase’ via Zoom. The event saw the participation of 110 individuals including Legislative Council members, diplomats, government officials and the public.

Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Aminuddin Ihsan bin Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Haji Abidin officiated the forum.

Acting Head of the People with Different Abilities Division at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS) Dayangku Dewi Kartika Putri binti Pengiran Shahminan, Acting Deputy Head of the Special Education Department at the Ministry of Education (MoE) Norali bin Ali Yusop, SMARTER Brunei parent Malai Ayla Surya binti Malai Haji Abdullah and founder of Pathways Lifeskills Enrichment Services Norhaslinda Ibrahim were panellists at the event.

Chief Executive Officer and Vice President I of SMARTER Brunei Malai Adila Surya moderated the online forum.

SMARTER Brunei President Pengiran Zamri bin Pengiran Haji Bujang said World Autism Awareness Day is an important day for the autism spectrum disorder management community as it aims to raise public awareness on issues surrounding autism.

ABOVE & BELOW: Moderator and panellists at the World Autism Awareness Day 2022 Forum; and Society for the Management of Autism Related issues in Training, Education and Resources (SMARTER) Brunei President Pengiran Zamri bin Pengiran Haji Bujang. PHOTOS: IZAH AZAHARI

Pengiran Zamri noted that awareness alone is not enough and response to these issues with kindness, compassion and commitment is needed as well as further investment in their education and employment.

“In recent years, many efforts have been made towards increasing access to education and job opportunities for people with autism,” said Pengiran Zamri, further stating that SMARTER Brunei has worked to counter discrimination against autistic adults with the launch of BJAK Cafe in June 2021.

“Although there were promising results, many autistic individuals still face challenges of integrating into our society without judgement,” added Pengiran Zamri.

Noting the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, the SMARTER Brunei president said it had caused disruptions to routines and services at the centre, resulting in challenges for the children and their families. However, SMARTER Brunei coped with the help of stakeholders.

“Now, as we continue to push through the endemic Phase, we seek everyone’s support in the journey to ensure individuals on the spectrum achieve their fullest potential and are able to participate fully in our society,” said Pengiran Zamri.

Pengiran Zamri believed that the diverse abilities and contributions of people with autism are being celebrated during World Autism Awareness Day as they deserve to be acknowledged and appreciated just as much as everybody else.

“I call on everyone to learn more about autism and practise kindness. I also encourage parents into seeking early intervention for their children.

“Let us all do our part in building a more welcoming community for Bruneians who live with autism; to protect their rights of equal access to education and work opportunities for them to live their lives independently, with dignity, security and inclusivity,” he said.

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