Approximately one in 270 people in the world are in the autism spectrum (WHO, 2021). In Malaysia, the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder was observed to have increased over the years, which is likely due to the higher awareness on the condition among parents nowadays (The Star, 2019).
With the purpose to amplify the need to assist individuals with autism in leading full and meaningful life as an integral part of society, starting from 2008, the United Nations has declared the 2nd of April as the World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) (UN, 2016). Due to the lack of awareness on autism, autism traits are often overlooked, impeding access to diagnoses and adequate support. Autism is characterised by challenges in social interaction and communication, as well as restricted, repetitive interests and behaviours (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Individuals with autism struggles in understanding and building social relationships, thereby are regrettably placed at a position prone to discrimination and marginalization across various social settings. As a result, they are often victims of bullying (Cappadocia, Weiss & Pepler, 2012), and are subjected to exclusion and inequalities.
“We may act different, we may think different, we may overall be different people, but at the end of the day we are still human beings and we deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.”
–Adam J. Dillon, 2021
Awareness brings change, hence creating and raising awareness on autism are essential in building a more inclusive world that celebrates diversity. With accurate and up to date knowledge on autism, this could prevent the delay in diagnosis for individuals presenting autistic traits, as well as their access to therapies and support. This is extremely important as early intervention is crucial for a better outcome for individuals with autism (Corsello, 2005). As people become more knowledgeable on autism, the stigma surrounding individuals with autism due to inaccurate generalizations and misconceptions would reduce, encouraging inclusion while preventing the discrimination and inequalities they are facing as a result of their condition.
We at EAP are dedicated to raise awareness on autism, to promote inclusion and acceptance of individuals with autism. In partnership with Yayasan Kajian dan Pembangunan Masyarakat (YKPM), EAP Malaysia launched The Hope Project, as a non-profit arm with the vision of “making world-class services accessible to all”. Since 2016, The Hope Project has been active in reaching out to the community through campaigns, services and provision of resources, in hopes to reach our goals:
- increase awareness about accurate diagnosis and treatment on autism
- the implementation of policies for national standards in the field of autism
- all children with autism will have access to research-proven therapy
April is World Autism Awareness Month (WAAM) and it is an eventful month for all of us at EAP. We celebrate each and every individual with autism as unique individuals who possess the ability to grow to their best potentials. It is also the time of the year when we focus most of our efforts into organizing and getting involved in various events and activities targeted to raise awareness on autism! This year, once again without doubt our effort is reaching another milestone. We are thankful to the efforts from all parties involved in reaching out and raising awareness on autism among the community. In this article, we would like to proudly share the highlights of WAAM with everyone!
As the world continues to battle with COVID-19, the efforts on campaigns remotely continued as we opt for social media platforms such as facebook, instagram and youtube.
Launch of Stop Bullying Today Campaign Video
Each year, we release a video to create awareness and acceptance on autism. This year we worked together with Stories.my and produced a Stop Bullying Today video, featuring a man with autism, Adam J Dillon. The video featured a collection of real life bullying experiences from Adam and other individuals with autism. This video was funded by Adam’s Autism Aquathlon whereby Adam himself swam and cycled a total of 422km to raise RM5,957 for The Hope Project!
We also launched a series of anti-bullying infographics on social media with the aim to raise awareness on the importance of being kind to one another.
To increase public awareness and knowledge on autism, we have created a set of infographics on “What is Autism” that you can share through social media platforms to help spread awareness!
With the intention to convey accurate facts and busting myths or misconception upon autism, a series of Myths and Facts of Autism resources were launched on our Instagram & Facebook page too!
Through our social media campaign #lovesomeonewithautism, we received overwhelming support from the public and influencers who jumped onboard in spreading awareness and acceptance on autism. Not to mention, the overwhelming response from our EAP Team who went all out to share about autism and inspirational stories through their own social media!
As we are all still in CMCO, we were not able to conduct physical school campaigns like how we used to. This year, we created School Campaign Packs instead which includes a school campaign video and kindness activities pack. We managed to reach out to a total of six schools and with the school campaign packs who agreed to run a kindness campaign with their students and educate them all about kindness, bullying and autism. You can find out more about the resources here!
World Autism Awareness Day Internal Campaign
In order to celebrate World Autism Awareness Day (2nd of April 2021) internally with all our children, families and EAP team members, we organized an internal campaign with decorations all around our two centres, some blue cupcakes to go and a launch of our Stop Bullying Today video!
This year, we also had the privilege of working together with various organisations keen on making a difference by raising awareness through postings and even raising funds through sale of their products. Some organisations include UNIQLO, Oxygen Cycle, Scoby Space, Dough Little Playdough, HyvaPlay!
In the 3rd year of our partnership with Boost, we are privileged to be able to continue to appear on their donation platform, receiving donations from Boost users all across Malaysia.
World Autism Awareness Month Merchandise
Leading up to World Autism Awareness Month, we relaunched our online store with our own range of autism awareness merchandise! You can still get them at our online store here to help raise awareness on autism! All proceeds will also go towards funding the efforts at The Hope Project!
Team Fundraising Projects
Throughout World Autism Awareness Month, our team also came up with multiple initiatives to raise funds for The Hope Project. From selling paintings, cookies, keychains, DIY kits, stickers and bookmarks, the EAP team have come up with various incredible short term projects that you can check out here!
One of the most exciting partnerships happening this year would be our collaboration with NASOM, making us a step closer to the goal in providing world-class services accessible for all! Our EAP team has concluded 5 online training sessions with NASOM teachers amounting to 20 hours! Throughout the next few months, the team will continue to support the teachers in person on the implementation of various skills. Before the start of the support, we were able to head into both NASOM Gombak and NASOM Titiwangsa to observe the running of the programs.
We are also honoured to meet with YB Dato’ Dr Mah, the deputy MOE minister, where we had a fruitful discussion on the ways EAP and The Hope Project can assist in improving the Malaysian education system, particularly in terms of special needs education.
Another effort in raising awareness to be highlighted was a discussion that our senior supervisor, Rachel Gomez, had with UN Youth Society’s Fireside. Rachel moderated the discussion on re-constructing the narrative of mental health in people with autism, which highlights the discrimination faced by individuals with autism and what members of the public can do to uplift them.
Autism at Home is an online resource platform launched by EAP in 2020 in order to help any individual, family and even professional out there to work with a child on the spectrum. The videos feature strategies used by ABA professionals all over the world and the production of the videos are supported through the funds collected by The Hope Project. To date, we have produced a total of 8 modules on Autism At Home, which the public can sign up here and access for free! Moving forward, we will continue the production of resource videos on Autism At Home, bringing world-class autism services straight to your doorstep!
Autism Awareness-related Kids Activities
In conjunction with WAAM, we have also collated a series of kids activities ideas, with the themes of love, kindness, gratitude and hope! You can check out the blogpost here and try out all the activities with your kids!
We may be nearing the end of WAAM, but there is no stop in spreading kindness and raising awareness! Please feel free to contact us through The Hope Project if you have great ideas in reaching out and spreading awareness on autism! Sales of our autism awareness merchandise on our online store are still ongoing, and you can also check out our online resource platform, Autism At Home for all the useful free resources! Do stay tuned on our social media platforms on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or visit our official website to learn more about autism and join us in raising awareness on autism!
“The first step towards change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.”
Our hearts are full with the overwhelming support and amazing effort by everyone who came together with us in spreading awareness on autism! Hereby, we would like to take this opportunity to appreciate and thank each and everyone of you that came forward and offered opportunities to raise awareness, purchased our merchandise, made donations, liked and shared our social media posts, wore blue on WAAD, and so on! Every effort counts, and by doing so, you have helped shed light into the lives of individuals with autism. Remember, kindness starts with you, and we can all love someone with autism today!
A huge shoutout to our EAP team, filled with the most passionate capeless heroes that work relentlessly in going the extra mile to reach out and raise awareness on autism. Thanks to all of you, we are one step closer to our goals in creating a kinder world for all our very beloved kiddos!
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5®). American Psychiatric Pub.
- Cappadocia, M. C., Weiss, J. A., & Pepler, D. (2012). Bullying experiences among children and youth with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 42(2), 266-277.
- Corsello, C. M. (2005). Early intervention in autism. Infants & Young Children, 18(2), 74-85.
- The Hope Project: https://autismmalaysia.com/the-hope-project/
- Stop Bullying Today Campaign Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5Ns9CK8G4I
- Anti-Bullying Infographics: https://www.instagram.com/p/CNJQs6RFmMH/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link
- What is Autism Infographics: https://www.instagram.com/p/CNJIUujlUFI/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link
- Myths and Facts on Autism: https://www.instagram.com/eapmalaysia/?hl=en
- School Campaign Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQbO1LQyCLw&t=1s
- Kindness Activities Pack: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/14DG3KFAkzey2VRXDAQ0kYbYRr1E0bpzf?usp=sharing
- Bullying Blog Resource: https://autismmalaysia.com/2021/04/bullying-blog-resource/
- EAP Malaysia Online Store: https://autismmalaysia.com/store/
- Team Fundraising Projects: https://www.instagram.com/p/CN13vlBFwpm/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link
- Autism At Home: https://www.autismmalaysia.com/autismathome/
- Autism Awareness-related Kids Activities: https://autismmalaysia.com/2021/04/april-theme-activities-part-2-2-world-autism-awareness-month-waam/