Tantrums and meltdowns: MCO takes heavy toll on autistic children

Children with autism follow a strict routine, but their coping mechanism is taken away during the movement control order period.

PETALING JAYA: An NGO for children with autism says autistic kids have trouble adapting to changes in routine, such as those caused by the movement control order (MCO) which began on March 18.

National Autism Society of Malaysia (Nasom) chairman Feilina Faisol said autistic children could not be confined in their homes for long periods.

She said based on feedback from the parents’ support group, these children were throwing double the tantrums on a normal day since the MCO began.

“They don’t understand why they’re at home, and have to stay indoors when they’re supposed to be in school or doing outdoor activities. Children with autism follow a strict routine. This is their coping mechanism in their own chaotic world.”

Feilina said taking the routine out of their lives created a huge disturbance.

“Tantrums, meltdowns, smashing furniture and TV, self-injury like biting themselves and hitting their heads against the wall are quite common,” she told FMT.

Feilina, who has an autistic child, said her son too had been throwing tantrums numerous times over the last two weeks.

“My son has had meltdowns three times this week, compared to once in every two weeks.”

She said her son wanted his normal routine, such as going to the Nasom vocational centre and on outings.

She said the MCO was also disruptive to treatment for autistic children.

“Most autistic kids have weekly therapy sessions but all therapy sessions in schools are cancelled as schools are closed. Only therapy sessions at the hospital could continue. But in the second phase, group therapy sessions are no longer allowed.”