EAP Malaysia's Response To The Arrest of Young Man With Autism

Written by Jochebed Isaacs (Director of EAP Malaysia), edited by Sarah Woo (Supervisor).

It is very unfortunate for both families involved in the recent incident in Kuala Lumpur, involving a 22-year old man with autism, Ahmad Ziqri, who was arrested after being accused of molesting another woman.

In light of the recent events, we at EAP were asked for our perspective by a number of media reporters and so we would like to share our thoughts on the matter, as well as to recommend various strategies that would equip other individuals with autism with the expected behaviours and appropriate social skills with regards to this matter.

Firstly, we would like to note that we do not have the full picture of the entire incident of what took place as we are basing our reflections only on the available news reports. Based on what we have read online, there appears to be 3 parties involved and affected and here are our recommendations:

1. The Police:

While there definitely should be an investigation to thoroughly find out what happened to bring justice for the victim and family, we would urge the police to review (i) the warrant for the need to arrest as well as (ii) the approach to the arrest.

As a nation we can start to refer to other countries’ best practices and one example would be from the National Autistic Society, UK who has developed a thorough resource entitled Autism: A Guide for Police Officers and Staff. There are specific indicators of individuals who present autism and specific Do’s and Don’ts and some pointers include (i) ‘not rushing into making an arrest unless it is the only option’ and (ii) to ‘keep physical contact to a minimum, avoid physical restraint, avoid use of handcuffs or restraints, if possible.’ Additionally there are specific guidelines for custody including having an ‘Appropriate Adult’ or autism professional as soon as possible to safeguard the individual.

2. The Victim and Family:

At present there is not enough information regarding this situation from the perspective of the victim and her family. We do feel compassionate to the trauma she herself would have experienced and hope news reporters will be able to get the full picture from their end as well. As practitioners in the field of autism, we are familiar with different challenging behaviours but as a young lady with no prior experience or expectation, this could have been very traumatising for her. We hope that she and her family will receive the necessary support and counselling as well.

3. The Young Man with Autism and his family:

This is really very unfortunate to happen to this young man, especially on his birthday and we hope he and his family receives the necessary support and counselling to overcome this traumatising ordeal.

Unfortunately the spectrum of autism can have some very challenging behaviours which can have painful and sometimes permanent consequences as well. Over the last few years, we have heard reports of individuals with autism wandering out of their homes and drowning or falling out of the balcony from a high-rise building.

Again we do not have enough information on this young man’s skills and abilities as well as challenging behaviours so it would be difficult to provide specific clinical recommendations. However generally, we would urge families with individuals with autism to identify challenging behaviours and to seek professional advice on how to develop comprehensive behaviour plans to implement the necessary preventative strategies, teaching strategies as well as reactive strategies.

Strategies To Teach Individuals With Autism Expected Behaviours

At EAP, we have been successful at teaching all our teenagers and young adults social skills concepts like Personal Space, Private & Public Behaviour, and Circle of Friends, in order to teach them the expected behaviours with other people and in the community.

There are specific principles to successfully teaching individuals with autism which include breaking a complex skill down (ensuring prerequisite and foundational skills are taught), pairing this skill with positive reinforcement as well as providing sufficient practice for the retention of new skills.

Due to how challenging some of these behaviours can become with age, we would also urge families with individuals with autism to receive good quality intensive behavioural treatment at an early age to develop appropriate skills particularly in the area of safety and community.

Below, you would find some resources that we at EAP would like to share with you, which you can use to teach your teenager or young adult with autism about the expected behaviours and social skills.

(i) Personal Space

(ii) Private & Public Behaviour

(iii) Circle of Friends

These programmes are just general guidelines and will need to be individualised and adapted according to the individual’s abilities, severity of autism as well as age.

We do understand that the spectrum of autism is wide and some individuals may be affected with more severe autism and this means they may probably require supervision at all times especially when in public, to protect themselves as well as others around.

If you require any further support, you may give us a call at +603 3094 0421 and one of our team will be more than happy to assist you

All in all, we hope that the awareness and acceptance of autism in Malaysia will increase across all communities and societies, and that together, we can support and safeguard individuals with special needs and disabilities as well as the public.