Masyarakat Peduli Autis Indonesia (Mpati) or Indonesian Autism Awareness Society has worked tirelessly for over 20 years to empower people with autism. Founders Gayatri Pamoedji and Farida Kadarusno started the foundation in 1998 to help families of children diagnosed with autism through education and other means of support.
Gayatri was motivated to start the foundation following her experience raising her child Audwin Trito who was diagnosed with autism. It wasn’t until Audwin was 18 months that she noticed that something appeared different. She notes that he didn’t want to make eye contact and was hyperactive. Her efforts at seeking treatment proved futile with doctors dismissing his condition as a virus or a speech delay. It wasn’t until Gayatri travelled to Australia to seek medical opinion that she learned that he was autistic. Moving to the country to raise her son, she noted that he received a good education and therapy and is now a chef and lives independently.
Knowing that not everyone would be as lucky, she founded Mpati to help people who have autistic family members, especially given that many families and communities are unaware of the situation.
The name of Mpati (empathy) has two meanings, first to remove the stigma surrounding the condition, and second to encourage the community at large to more empathetic..
The foundation believes that the key to the successful handling of children with autism is to be educated and aware of the facilities and support. The organisation helps parents and teachers care for children with autism in a better way, and encourages them to create more active roles and to have a desire to be more inclusive in their work.
“Mpati aims to empower parents and teachers or educators to give the best treatment possible to children with autism because we see the experience of the founder Ibu Gayatri and family is the main supporter for the children,” said Fatharani Nadhira, a Psychologist and Programme Manager.3
Mpati actively socialises how to identify people with autism and how to treat them to schools, businesses, and public spaces such as malls and parks. Beside that, the foundation also campaigns “Autism Is Not A Joke” for almost 10 years, seeing that many Indonesians tend to say inappropriate words, such as “…..Don’t be like an autistic person….” or “..Are you autistic..” when they get ignorant response from interlocutors or someone are engrossed in their cellphones.
Partnering with the Jakarta Government, Mpati is entrusted with managing Jakarta’s Autism Service Center focusing on provision of information, educational tools, training and counseling on autism issue in Indonesia. This service center also provides free diagnosis for children, free training for parents, especially those having children with autism. The training stresses on how to teach basic skills for children with autism such as taking a bath, eating, drinking, urinating and defecating. The foundation encourages underprivileged parents who had children with autism or suspected autism to get them diagnosed and follow the training free by calling 089524666207.
Nadhira also said that the foundation’s campaign “Be Informed, Be Inspired, Get a Job” to help educate the public that children with autism are not a burden, if parents get involved directly and are creative, the children can get work and earn income
“For diagnoses we collaborate with doctors and psychologists, while for education we provide three CDs which contain tutorials on how to help children with therapy. It’s easy to follow and it teaches them simple motor skills. And third is speech therapy, so we have to stimulate children’s oral abilities in order to help them speak comfortably. Also, we educate parents about the eight basic skills with good visual representations so the children will be interested in learning,” Nadhira said.
Nadhira also said that the foundation’s campaign “Be Informed, Be Inspired, Get a Job” to help educate the public that children with autism are not a burden, if parents get involved directly and are creative, the children can get work and earn income. For example, last year some young artists with autism were employed by PT TransJakarta to paint its most expensive buses which were inaugurated by Governor Anies Baswedan.
Mpati holds a bazaar and seminar every year to showcase the various creations from children with autism, like paintings, bags, photography, performances etc. This year’s event will be held on 20 July and the foundation will prepare 100 booths to showcase their artworks and offers other vendors the opportunity to promote the products related to autism.