The First Autism-Friendly Mall In This Southeast Asian State
Amid rising awareness in Malaysia of difficulties faced by people with the autism genetic disorder, Sunway Putra Mall is undertaking a landmark effort to reduce hurdles which keep away this group of people from venturing out into public places.
Starting January 2019, the mall management will address features which we often take for granted but are huge hurdles for autistic people – from flickering or too bright lights to the type or volume of ambient music.
“Tenants will also be part of our autism-friendly Tuesdays,” said general Phang Sau LIan. “These will include priority queues at payment counters for families with autistic members to make their visit to outlets in our mall far more pleasant.”
For this effort to relieve some of the stresses faced by family and friends of autistic people, she said the mall will be reducing lighting brightness and ambient music within the mall between 10am and 5pm on Tuesdays, starting next month.
To gain maximum benefit from this mall’s initiative, autistic people need to register at the concierge counter and be given identification bands, said Phang, and they will get to enjoy a whole range of benefits – including parking privileges.
“We’re still working out how best to be autism-friendly and this is just the first phase of our mall-wide effort. We welcome feedback from the public and those caring for autistic people so that we can improve.”
For this initiative, the mall has forged a partnership with Autism Behavioral Center, based in Bangsar Baru here. This privately-run centre, which marked its second anniversary this month, helps families with members diagnosed with autism – a category of complex disorders of brain development.
Laying claim to be the largest Applied Behavioural Analysis Therapy (ABA) certified centre in Malaysia, it operates between 9am and 5pm on weekdays – with over half its available therapy sessions, priced around RM4,000 monthly fully taken up.
Current participants age from as young as 18 months and the oldest is now 34 – but director Charlene Marie Samuel said the ABA methodology can apply to any age.
She added that partnerships with public area operators like Sunway Putra Mall opens up new avenues for autistic people to venture out of their homes and have the opportunity to enjoy what most people take for granted.
“Even a haircut can be a stressful experience, due to sensory overload. While our tried-and-tested therapy methods help autistic people cope with the demands of today’s lifestyles, every little bit to help reduce hurdles they need to otherwise overcome goes a long way.”
Source : CYBER-RT