Disability Awareness and Acceptance in Borneo International Marathon 2017

This year’s Borneo International Marathon (BIM), which concluded on May in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, partnered with UNICEF Malaysia to raise disability awareness and acceptance for people with disabilities. The theme for this year’s marathon was #thisability, urging the public to see beyond a child’s disability, to accept and respect their differences as part of our society. Besides highlighting messages of disability throughout the event, the marathon organisers, together with UNICEF, put in much thought to enable individuals with disabilities to participate in the marathon, such as waiving marathon participation fee and planning a 3km running track for them.

Throughout the event, UNICEF Malaysia featured messages of hope and achievement by children with disabilities under the slogan “All Different, All Able, All In”, bringing the focus of diversity and inclusion into the spotlight; while creating awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disabilities in an inclusive society.

Children with disabilities need opportunities to participate in our society in all aspects, and we applaud Borneo International Marathon and UNICEF Malaysia for enabling their participation in the marathon.

We need more event organisers to consider the needs of people with disabilities and make adjustments to break down barriers to access and participation.

With “43% of people surveyed think it is disruptive for children to be in school with children with disabilities” — source UNICEF Malaysia, sport is only one of the various aspects that children with disabilities face barriers to full engagement in our society. In Malaysia, many children with disabilities and their families still encounter obstacles in obtaining necessary quality care, education and services for their needs, which is critical to empower children and families with disability to gain knowledge and skills to overcome everyday life challenges brought on by their disability.

Although Malaysia has seen substantial growth in the awareness and services for children with disabilities, much effort is still needed to support their needs. Due to rising costs, many children with disabilities and their families still do not have access to necessary intervention services, such as early intervention programme, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, counselling, physiotherapy, psychological intervention/consultation, etc. It is time that concrete steps are taken to make these services affordable and accessible to children and families with disabilities. Particularly, these intervention and support services need to be regulated to keep professionals and programmes accountable; so that children and families with disabilities can be assured that they receive effective and evidence-based services.

Therefore, early detection and intervention is crucial to ensure that children with disabilities and their families acquire necessary services and support for their various needs and improve their quality of life.

If you notice or suspect that a child you know has not kept up with his/her development, seek help immediately from paediatricians.

When parents should be concerned about their child’s development?

These are a few key indicators that a child may have a developmental problem or disability:

Lack of response to name, lack of appropriate eye contact, or lack of gestures (pointing, reaching, waving) by 12 months.

  • Not able to speak six clear words with meaning at 18 months of age.
  • Not able to walk independently at 18 months of age.
  • Not able to read and write after 1-2 years of kindergarten.

(Adapted from Filipek et al., Neurology, 2000, and Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS, 2017)

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh, Senior Consultant Paediatrician, further emphasized that the key message to all parents that will enable us to pick up 90% of children with Autism, Speech Delay, etc is: “If your child has any of the above indicators, see a good paediatrician as soon as possible, do not delay. If the doctor reassures you or tells you to wait, go find another doctor who will listen to you.”

Healthcare professionals should never dismiss or take lightly any parental concerns. Early intervention is crucial to support children with developmental problem or disability.

National Early Childhood Intervention Council, Ipoh

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