KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia will host the inaugural International Seminar on Autism at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC) on April 22 and 23.
The prime minister's wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, said the seminar, themed "Autism is not a tragedy, ignorance is" was aimed at raising the public's awareness and to share views with experts and others in the field on the education of autistic children in the country.
It will also allow participants to share their opinions and experiences in early intervention as well as autistic children's education development.
"The two-day seminar will be filled with a tight itinerary, including plenary and concurrent sessions, panel discussions and forums.
"A special session will be arranged for the wives of heads of state, called 'First Ladies' Voices', aimed at sharing experiences, perspectives and ideas on autism in their respective countries.
"This seminar is in collaboration with Autism Speaks, a leading non-governmental organisation (NGO) based in New York and supported by the health as well as education ministries," she told a media conference after the 2014 Autism Run at Taman Tasik Titiwangsa here yesterday.
The seminar is organised by the Permata Programme, Women, Family and Community Development Ministry and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.
She said the wives of five heads of state from Albania, Sudan, Morocco, Kyrgyz Republic and Sri Lanka had confirmed their attendance.
International presenters expected at the seminar include Prof Dr Eric Fombonne from Oregon Health and Science University, Prof Dr Cheryl Dissanayake (La Trobe University, Australia) and Dr Wu Ruth Yu Yu (Taipei Teachers University) as well as local autism experts. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak will open the seminar.
Rosmah said Autism Speaks was also set to become a platform for the implementation of the autistic children's intervention programme, known as the Permata Kurnia Programme, which is expected to start in May next year.
On the Permata Kurnia Programme, Rosmah said the centre, which was expected to accommodate autistic children, was now being constructed and would be operational in May next year.
Rosmah said for a start, the centre which would operate in Sentul, is expected to receive its first 300 children below the age of 5 afflicted with mild autism as its pilot project.
"After six months, when we are sure of the centre's success, we will increase the age limit and expand the programme to every state."
Rosmah, who is also Permata's patron, said 1,260 participants from within the country and abroad had registered for the seminar.
They include government officials, academicians, NGOs and students from institutes of higher learning from the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, Thailand, Pakistan, United States, Algeria, Nigeria and India.