Last week, I had an opportunity to meet with Dr. Boon Hock Lim and his colleague Joseph Lee through our mutual connection, the Richter family. Years ago, Dr. Lim was a foreign exchange student in Erie and stayed with Mr. and Mrs. Richter.
Although he returned to his native Malaysia after graduating, he maintained his relationship with the Richters. After the birth of his son, who has autism and ID, he became increasingly involved with the special needs population. This drive had a large influence in his eventual founding of the Wings Melaka Early Intervention Center in 1998. So, when he shared of his plans to visit Erie this summer, the Richters immediately suggested that he might be interested in a tour of the Barber National Institute.
They began their visit with a tour led by our training department. We had arranged for approximately an hour-long tour… but they were so engaged that they were gone nearly two hours! Needless to say, he was very impressed with the scope and breadth of our programs.
Likewise, I was very anxious to learn about special education programs in Malaysia and in particular, the story of how he founded Wings Melaka. He and a group of parents of children with special needs wanted to secure services for their children… one year later, Wings Melaka was established. A school-aged program began in 2007 and their next aim is to offer adult services.
Sound familiar??? Even their mission statement mirrors ours!
Some of their key principles include:
- Family centered model
- Effective early intervention practice
- Positive behavior management focus
- Optimal use of minimal resources
As was true for Dr. Barber in the United States, advocacy by parents was a critical component in securing services for children in need. Today, although there is much regulation about disabilities, there remain limited services available in Malaysia. Dr. Lim’s own son is now 24 and opportunities for him are few. He is hopeful that the parents of the students now graduating will once again lead the charge for more and better services. The similarities between his story and my own with Ryan were again striking.
We said our good-bye with a promise to stay in touch and continue to share resources.
It is only an 18 hour plane trip. Who knows… next stop: Malaysia?