[WATCH] ‘Autism is not a taboo’ – Michelle Muscat

Four schools to open their grounds for autistic children during summer months.

Michelle Muscat opens school grounds for autistic children • Video by Ray Attard

The grounds of four schools will be made accessible for children suffering with autism, Marigold Chairperson Michelle Muscat announced today.

Muscat explained that for the third consecutive year, the Autism Parents Association in collaboration with the education ministry, embarked on an initiative that allows parents of autistic children a safe environment for their children’s recreation.

Speaking to MaltaToday, the prime minister’s wife underlined that autism should not be perceived as a taboo, and that any prejudices should be discarded.

“Parents of children with autism should not be discourages from seeking support or from raising the challenges they face on a daily basis. The opening of four public schools specifically intends on addressing the daily challenges faced by autistic children, and consequently, parents should come forward and not be burdened by any prejudices,” Muscat argued.

Autism spectrum disorder – or as it is commonly known, autism – appears in early childhood and is usually diagnosed by the age of three. The level of severity of this condition may vary in three different areas, namely: social communication, interaction, and imagination. People suffering from autism may experience difficulties in understanding both verbal and non-verbal communication, understanding other people’s emotions, as well as changing routines.

Speaking to MaltaToday, Michelle Muscat explained that notwithstanding the inroads in autism awareness, the biggest struggle to discarding the taboo surrounding autism is prejudice.

“In several occasions, children do not appear to be suffering from autism. Conversely, such children are perceived and labeled as being unruly or disobedient. Consequently, parents are often discouraged from going out with their children, and in some occasions, parents and children remained confined within their homes,” she said.

Flanked by Education Minister Evarist Bartolo, Muscat announced that during summer, four schools in Malta and Gozo would be opening their doors for autistic children. These schools are the primary schools in Attard, Marsaxlokk, and Xewkija, as well as the Maria Regina secondary school in Zokrija, limits of Mosta.

“The aim behind this initiative is to offer autistic children an alternative place where they can feel safe as traditional playgrounds might pose a danger,” she said.

Muscat – who is also the honorary president of the Autism Parents Association – also encouraged Gozitans to make use of this service.

Commending the initiative, education minister Evarist Bartolo explained that such initiatives seek to give autistic children an alternative experience, as currently, the accessibility of the education system for autistic children is unsatisfactory.

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