Category Archives: Developmental Disorder

Autism & Special Talents

Do you watch the Good Doctor? It’s an American medical series, now on Season 4, based on an award-winning South Korean drama. The leading character in the series is Shaun Murphy, who has autism, and… Savant syndrome. As defined by Treffert (2019), savant syndrome is “a rare condition in which someone with significant mental disabilities demonstrates certain abilities far in excess of average”. So Shaun might not be very good in communication and socialising with his colleagues, patients and their family, he is still extraordinary surgeon.

There is a Malaysia produced movie, based on a Malaysian true story, “Guang” (you can find the 15 min version here on Youtube). The leading character in this movie is Guang, who has autism spectrum disorder, and special talent in music.

I can list a number more of movies and series which are about autism, and almost all the time, the leading role in them have savant syndrome.

So do people with autism always have savant syndrome?

I have met quite a number of people with autism spectrum disorder during my years of practice and in my personal life. The answer is no. In fact, none of them has savant syndrome.

According to Treffert, roughly 1 in 10 persons with autism have some remarkable abilities in varying degrees. Yes, 10% is not high at all, but considered that savant syndrome only present in one in a million (1,000,000) people, you see that it’s considered “common” in people with autism.

So I guess that explains why those movies and dramas tend to portray autism this way. It even gave hope to a lot of parents who have children with autism, but no matter how they tried, they couldn’t find the “special talent”. What adds to the frustration, is when we often expect there is something special with the kid, and ask them about it.

“Oh your boy is autistic? What’s his special ability?”

They need our help!

It’s been a tough year for many, and that includes the Kiwanis Down Syndrome Foundation (KDSF*). With the current Covid pandemic situation, it has been difficult for them to raise fund. Please help if you can. Refer to the poster below for more information:

Scan the QR code, or visit

It’s okay if you are not able to donate, you can at least share the poster or the link!

Check out their Facebook page too:

For your information, KDSF is a non-profit organisation committed to the welfare of children and the family of those with Down Syndrome.

Training/Employment opportunities for Asperger/Autistic Young Adults

I’ve previously written a post introducing intervention programmes for autistic children in Malaysia (see here). Today, I’d like to share a little finding on what young adults, especially (but not limited to) those with better functioning can do.

# Enabling Academy by Gamuda

The academy provides courses that “equip trainees with relevant soft skills and practical job training that are essential for employability”. I have had a client who were first few graduates from there and is now working in the finance industry. It doesn’t just prepare them for employment, but also pairs them with suitable job, and enables them to meet and socialise with people with similar “problems”.


(Bravos to Gamuda for doing this! And undeniably hoping more and more big companies are doing this!)

 # United Voice 

The United Voice calls itself a “Self-advocacy Society of Persons with Learning Disabilities”. It also provides handcraft and baking courses, and counselling services.


# Hua Ming Autism Society

The society provides “vocational skill training for youth with autism above 16 years old” every Sunday. More details here.

# Bloomers Training House

This is a job training and employment centre, whose mission is “To integrate Young Adults with Special Needs into an inclusive society by providing them with meaningful Training and Employment.” So it’s not just for autism, but also other differently-abled young adults, like ADHD and Down syndrome.


And of course don’t forget about the National Autism Society of Malaysia (NASOM)! From assessment, early intervention, to transition and vocational programmes, all are available.


These are what I can find at the moment, please do let me know if you’re aware of any other relevant opportunities for them, by commenting below or write to me at

On a site note: there is a great award winning Malaysian produced true story based movie on autism “Guang” (光)which is pretty inspiring. Do watch it if you haven’t already.






















泛自闭症障碍 (Autism Spectrum Disorder)

一个蛮常出现的情况,就是大人要是有些什么心理问题,就会被说成“抑郁症”(或“忧郁”),不管他的症状是闷闷不乐,竭斯底里,情绪高昂,自杀念头,出现幻觉,嫉妒心强,时好时坏…… 所以很多时候问当事人或其家属他有什么问题的时候,最常出现的答案,就是“抑郁症”(往往仔细问过症状后,其与“抑郁症”风马牛不相及!)

而孩子呢?这种情况也是有的,只是一般他们会被标签的是“自闭”(或“过动”,其次),不管他的症状是安静,闷闷不乐,不爱社交,过动,不听话,无法沟通,爱说谎,智力偏低,生活无法自理… 情况不严重的时候,就被称为“有点自闭”…

根据DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder, 美国精神协会的精神障碍与统计手册,第五版),自闭症(现在已改称Autism Spectrum Disorder, 泛自闭症障碍*,本文继续简称自闭症)从孩提早期,与他人的接触在一定程度上影响了患者几乎每个方面的功能。 社会关系从轻度损害到几乎完全缺乏互动。 有些可能只是减少分享,而一些患者则完全不能主动接触他人或回应他人。 他们说话的时候,倾向于不用一些大多数人常用的身体信号,比如 眼神接触,手势,微笑和点头。 自闭症患者难以在各种不同的社交情景中调整他们的行为; 他们可能缺乏对其他人的兴趣,并且几乎没有朋友。

重复和狭小的专注点是他们的活动和兴趣的特征。 他们不喜欢/抵抗日常微小的变化(比如每天午饭点一样的菜,或不停地重复已经回答的问题。)他们可能被一些动态(如旋转)或微小物体所着迷。 对刺激(疼痛,巨响,极端温度)的反应可能过于微弱或过度。 一些非常专注于感官体验:他们对特定的视觉动态或特定气味着迷,有些或者恐惧或拒绝特定的声音或特定物体表面的触觉。 他们可能使用怪异的言语或表现出刻板的行为,例如拍手,身体摇摆或像回音般重复他人的话(echolalia)。


*Autism Spectrum Disorder, 泛自闭症障碍,或自闭症系列障碍,表达了自闭症的多元性。


Intervention Programmes for Autism in Malaysia

It just happened that I was doing a brief research on the internet and among my friends who are in the field, so here is some information that might be useful to those who are looking for early intervention programmes for children diagnosed with Autism. (It is up-to-date on April 2016, within Klang Valley only).

I’d advise to take your child and visit the centre, get a feel of how it’s like on a typical day, on top of enquiring what they offer and how they charge. If possible, bring someone who knows a bit more in the field!

  • Autism Link, Petaling Jaya (
    • Using Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA), 1:1 individually tailored
    • Parental training weekly
    • Monday – Friday (3 hours class)
    • Morning RM5500/month; Afternoon 4800/month; Full day 8500/month
    • Contact: 016-6100309 / 03-7957 0795; Email:
    • According to a ABA therapist friend who used to work there, this centre is strongly recommendable if parents/family is financially capable.
  • Hatching, Jaya One, Petaling Jaya (
    • Modified ABA, 1:4 group (1 teacher/therapist, 4 children)
    • Workshop for parents/children monthly
    • 9am-12pm or 1pm-4pm RM1500/month; 9am-4pm RM2000/month
    • Make appointment for free pre-enrolment assessment (1 hour)
    • Contact: 011-1133 8518
    • 3 hour or 6 hour session
    • Contact: 03- 8020 6666
    • I called up and was told that they don’t discuss the fee structures over the phone (it kind of makes me suspect …), to call up for appointment.
  • Bright Stars, Ara Damansara (
    • Using ABA, the sun-rise programme; 1:1 or 1:2 individualised
    • 9am-12pm or 12:30pm-3:30pm, RM2900/month; 9am-3pm RM5200/month
    • Contact: 012-3222405 / 03-78590089
    • See (it appears to be the only centre that publishes their pricing online!)
  • The National Autism Society of Malaysia (NASOM) (
    • Many centres all over Malaysia, including one in Miri, Sarawak. One-stop assessment/diagnosis centre is at Setia Alam (603-3359 3987)
    • Star programme, 1:3
    • Monday-Friday 7.30am-12pm or 1pm-5pm (RM318/month, half day only)
    • May need to be put in waiting list but they have intake almost every month throughout the year
    • Note: The centre that I called up to enquire is Taman OUG centre (03-78317928 / 03-78327928)
  • Freelance ABA therapists
    • Usually much more affordable, so it would suit those family with financial constraint.
    • Some might be able to have sessions at home.
    • Standard, facility, materials used, quality, service might be compromised (or not!!)
    • It might be good to do a review (re-assessment) every 6 months or so to check the child’s progress
    • Where to find? Check the comment section below!

Disclaimer: I am in no way involved in any of the abovementioned centres and their therapists, I have not personally known anyone who had used their services so I cannot guarantee their service quality and outcome. I’m only providing different options to those who might need it, feel free to add your comments or recommend other centres below.