Royal call for autism friendly community
Azlan Othman

HIS Royal Highness Prince Hj ‘Abdul ‘Azim yesterday urged the public sector and the relevant authorities to provide appropriate support to families in the provision of care for Individuals With Autism (IWAs).

HRH Prince Hj ‘Abdul ‘Azim said, “We are fortunate that in Brunei Darussalam, we have been blessed with a society that has traditionally been made up of close-knit family units that work to support each other.”

However, whilst family support would always be at the frontline of care provision for IWAs, “we must also look to provide appropriate support to families and individuals from the public sector with the active participation of the relevant authorities”, HRH Prince Hj ‘Abdul ‘Azim said in a sabda at the official opening ceremony of the 2nd Asean Autism Network (AAN) Congress yesterday at Rizqun International Hotel.

“That is why the theme for this Congress (which reads ‘Towards Autism Friendly Asean Community’) reflects the need for a deeper and wider understanding of autism in the Asean region.

“We want to make our communities more IWA friendly, whether in terms of spreading a better understanding of the needs of these special individuals or in looking at ways in which we can integrate them better into society and give them brighter futures.”

HRH Prince Hj ‘Abdul ‘Azim said it is encouraging to see that SMARTER has widened its network to the regional front and that the participants joining the congress included both professionals and their Asean colleagues from a diverse range of fields across the region.

“I am confident that this congress would prove to be a great success, and that the participants would make use of the most of the opportunities it presents to deepen their knowledge of autism and the care required by the Individuals with Autism (IWAs).

“It is also good to hear that on Friday, the 1st Asean Autism Youth Camp was organised in the Sultanate, which offered the chance for our IWA youths to make friends and for their parents to get together to share their experiences and widen the network of support amongst families in Brunei and Asean.”

HRH Prince Hj ‘Abdul ‘Azim added it is this form of family-based support which serves as the key driver for NGOs like SMARTER and also provides the foundation for the good work done by the Asean Autism Network (AAN).

“It has been brought to my understanding that the AAN is a community-based group that brings together autism support networks across the Asean region.

“The mission of the AAN to support, assist, facilitate and enhance autism-related family support groups in collaboration with other stakeholders in the Asean region and globally is indeed praiseworthy.

“I am sure that over time, as the AAN continues to grow, it would bring a multitude of benefits to individuals and families that have been affected by autism throughout the region.

The President of SMARTER, Malai Hj Abdullah bin Hj Malai Othman said AAN was established with ‘Family Comes First’ as a core concept with a mission to support, facilitate and enhance autism related family support groups in collaboration with other stake-holders in the Asean region and globally.

Malai Hj Abdullah said this congress has created history for SMARTER and Brunei Darussalam for hosting the first autism exhibition by Asean autism associations and initiating the first-ever Asean Autism Youth Camp for family members.

He said that SMARTER Brunei has been elected as the incoming chairperson for AAN.

HRH Haji ‘Abdul ‘Azim also viewed the Asean Autism Awareness Exhibition which started yesterday and is participated by groups that include the Child Development Centre, Institut Teknologi Brunei and SMARTER. The exhibition continues today (Sunday) at The Mall in Gadong. - Borneo Bulletin (28 April 2013)