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The Airport Community Ready To Support Travellers With Hidden Disabilities

Inside Story
Nadia Malyanah

Malaysia Airports collaborates with the Autism Behavioral Centre (ABC) to create awareness of hidden disabilities and provide training for the airport community

Hidden disabilities such as autism often slip under the radar, and fairly little awareness of them within the general public means the individuals affected may not always get the necessary support in their daily lives beyond family members and friends. Crucially, accessibility to and within public spaces — including airports — should also take into account the needs of those with these disabilities rather than just catering for those with more tangible physical disabilities.


To this end, Malaysia Airports aims to facilitate those needs by creating awareness on hidden disabilities, specifically learning disabilities, within and beyond their airports by working together with the Autism Behavioral Centre (ABC), which has come onboard as the primary collaborator and training provider for this project. As part of preparations for a soon-to-be-launched initiative centering on these disabilities, ABC has held multiple training sessions with ground handlers, airlines, government agencies and business partners to better equip the airport community.

imgABC is actively providing training sessions for the airport community to create awareness on hidden disabilities.

During these training sessions, participants were exposed to a variety of relevant topics including identifying hidden and learning disabilities; functions of behaviour; as well as proactive and reactive measures to ensure that tantrums and meltdowns are minimised, while providing adequate support to families with autistic individuals.


As a result of the training sessions, airport staff would now be able to identify passengers with such hidden disabilities by looking out for the signs as well as diagnostic criteria for autism. This means that staff would be better equipped to manage families of differently-abled individuals, and better respond to the specific needs.

Learning About The Different Disabilities

Among the hidden disabilities identified during training for airport staff were speech delay, autism spectrum disorder, global development delay and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Speech Delay: What Is it
Most parents are well-aware that the age at which children start talking and learning language varies from one child to another, as with the development of other skills and growth milestones. While babies’ unresponsiveness to sound or inability to vocalise should immediately be checked by doctors, it’s often hard for parents to know if their children have problems with their speech or language milestones due to several factors including medical reasons, extreme environmental deprivation, learning disorders and language disorders.

imgAwareness of learning disabilities will lead to quicker diagnoses.

Meanwhile, with parents becoming more aware of learning disabilities and having it diagnosed earlier, the number of children diagnosed has significantly increased worldwide - though not necessarily indicating the sheer increase of prevalence rates itself. Indeed, speech delays may be a tell-tale symptom of possible underlying conditions including autism, global development delay (GDD) and attention- deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD.) Early diagnosis and intervention would make all the difference, as these steps are crucial for the wellbeing and future of differently-abled children and their parents.


1. Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects the development of speech, social skills and behaviours repertoire. Symptoms usually appear before the age of 3, with some early symptoms that include unresponsiveness when called or not being overly interested in particular topics or items. Unusual behaviours such as lining things up, collecting items of a certain characteristic or flapping hands may also be one of the symptoms.

2. Global Development Delay (GDD)
Meanwhile, Global Development Delay (GDD) can be diagnosed when a child is delayed in one or more milestones categories, which are motor skills, speech, cognitive skills, and social and emotional development. A child’s inability to sit up by 8 months’ age, a child’s inability to crawl or walk by 12 months’ age, poor social and communication skills as well as difficulty with fine and gross motor skills are among symptoms to be monitored for.

3. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is often identified in school-going children, as it often leads to disruption. Prevalent symptoms of ADHD include a child who often seems to not pay attention to detail and makes careless mistakes, is easily distracted, loses things often, and shows signs of constant impatience and restlessness. Children with ADHD often need to move despite being seated - they would squirm in their seat or tap their feet, tend to interrupt others, and have much difficulty waiting for their turn.

Autism Behavioral Centre: Supporting Individuals with Hidden Disabilities

Autism Behavioral Centre (ABC) is a private education service provider located in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur that supports individuals with hidden disabilities including autism and ADHD, as well as those with speech and behavioural challenges. The centre provides behavioural intervention using the Applied Behaviour Analysis Principles, which is considered to be the ‘gold standard’ in autism treatment. The largest 1:1 (1 child to 1 therapist) intervention centre in Malaysia with 40 individual classrooms, each child’s education is individualised according to the child’s IEP (Individualised Education Plan) and ability. ABC is directly supervised by a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst, Dita Chapman, who has 14 years’ worth of experience and facilitates ABA trainings, programming and supervision at the centre by utilising the Pennsylvania training and technical assistance network (PaTTAN) technology developed in the USA by Dr Amiris Dipuglia (BCBA) and behaviour analyst Mike Miklos (BCBA). Case Supervisors at ABC have an average of 4 years of experience in the field, while all therapists would have received over 500 hours of training.

imgABC's programs are tailored to fit the child's needs.

With programs individualised according to the respective child’s needs and level, the centre’s main objective is to prepare these children with sufficient skills that will eventually reintegrate them into their schools and communities. Malaysia Airports is working closely with ABC in developing further programs to benefit travellers with hidden or learning disabilities when at the airport, with plans to open facilities that cater to their needs to make travelling as joyful as possible. To find out more about ABC’s services, visit them at

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