TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - London School of Public Relations (LSPR) Jakarta is conducting a higher educational program for autistic children by employing various methods to enable them to learn and interact with people around them.
"Children with autism encounter challenges in communicating with others. The LSPR strives to offer an opportunity to children with autism to continue their education and obtain academic degrees by inculcating knowledge that can be useful to other people," Founder and Director of LSPR Jakarta Prita Kemal Gani informed reporters here on Friday (Oct. 19).
Gani explained that children with autism, who study at LSPR, take special classes. At certain times, they will join regular classes to meet and interact with other students.
"This is a `buddy system` program. The goal is that children with autism can make friends, while for other students, they will have empathy for those with special needs," Gani explained, adding that with such a method, LSPR has graduated several autistic students, who are able to work according to their talents and interests.
He stressed that children with autism actually have the same abilities as other kids, such as in the fields of sports, arts, and technology.
"If our children are educated, they can study and work and that can make them feel useful," Gani remarked.
However, educating autistic children is still a challenge in Indonesia, considering the number of therapies and teachers with an educational background for handling people with special needs are still quite limited.
Gani remarked that the LSPR also organizes parent siblings program that brings together parents with autistic children to share their knowledge and experiences.
In addition, LSPR holds training for teachers, who specifically teach children with special needs.
"So far, there are three thousand schools participating in this program," she noted.
On the same occasion, Chairperson of the Indonesia Autism Foundation Dr Melly Budhiman explained that autism in Indonesia had not become a concern until 1997.
"In the 80s, I handled autistic children but only about three cases per year. At that time, parents complained that their children were bullied at school, and they were also excluded by other families and people, as they had children with autism," Dr Budhiman, who is also a child psychiatrist, explained.
She noted that in 1997, when autism had received attention by the community, several parents and doctors established YAI, one of the objectives being to educate people on autism.
Although children with autism face difficulties in communicating, they can recover from the disorder and live like other people.
In fact, several children with autism are able to complete higher education with majors, including in education, archeology, mechanical engineering, and even become a medical doctor, Dr Budhiman added.