Media The Star 6 May 2016

Redha teaches us about autism

WHEN you next see a seemingly naughty child rolling on the floor at a public place – shopping mall, post office, etc. – making a nuisance of himself, please do not pass quick judgement on the poor parents or guardians of the child.

He could be merely a hyperactive child, an autistic child or has a disorder called ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder).

This was one of the “take-aways” etched in my mind after watching the movie Redha. If I had not seen the movie, I would have put the blame squarely on the guardians’ poor parental skills.

Besides educating myself on the characteristics of an autistic child (very little or no eye contact with others, speech difficulties, displaying anti-social and repetitive behaviours, and unusual insistence on routine, just to name a few) and the ramifications on the stressed care-giver, I also gained many other valuable insights.

Firstly, few Malaysians are aware of children with this kind of disorder. They don’t know the challenges parents/guardians of autistic kids face on a daily basis.

Furthermore, our country’s current medical and education system is not able to cope with the increasing number of autistic children.

I was teary eyed when the mother, crying by herself, asked what she had done to deserve the life-time challenges of bringing up an autistic child.

In the movie, it was the wife who bore the major burden of taking care of the child. The husband somehow could not accept the reality of the situation. It was only after the sudden death of his wife that he became a caring dad. At the end of the movie, he said: “From the imperfections of life, I have learned to be a perfect man.”

Hopefully, husbands in families with an autistic child will take equal responsibility from the very beginning.

The other take-away is that when we hear of the birth of a child, never ask whether the baby is a boy or girl. Instead, pray that the child is normal and healthy.

This is a very educational and enlightening movie. The Government should consider having free screenings for the rakyat to increase overall awareness of this disorder. The cinema chains could also play their corporate social responsibility (CSR) role by subsidising the price of tickets and taking the initiative to promote this worthwhile and meaningful movie.

Finally, kudos to the enterprising husband-and-wife team of Tunku Mona Riza and Ku Mohamad Haris for their bold effort in producing this heart-rending movie to increase awareness of autism among Malaysians.

POLA SINGH