The Torment of Sleepless Nights

By Audrey Vijaindren

IT'S been a long and tiring day. There's only enough energy for a shower before plunking yourself on the bed. But what happens when sleep is the last thing that comes to you? AUDREY VIJAINDREN learns that an unhealthy lifestyle may be the reason sleep disorders are creeping into Malaysian bedrooms.

Reading and hot showers may help some people wind down before getting that much-needed sleep.

But for many others, it's impossible to get some shuteye, no matter how much hot milk they drink. For these night owls, sleep is a luxury they rarely enjoy.

"Sleep disorders are so common these days, it's a big problem in many houses. Our lifestyle is mainly to blame," says Hospital Universiti Sains Malaysia Sleep Laboratory coordinator, Dr Baharudin Abdullah.

"More and more Malaysians are bogged down with work and family problems. It's impossible to have restful sleep.

"Depression is another reason this ailment is on the rise. People may think sleep problems are not as bad as other sicknesses, but that's not the case."

He says an average working adult must have eight hours of sleep but many people are only getting half of that. And children are also sleeping less because of electronic gadgets and gizmos in their bedroom.

Speech Therapy for Autistic Kids

by Suzanna Pillay

WHEN a child does not talk at that normal age and seems to be in his or her own zone, speech therapy may hold the key to communication. 

EIGHT-year-old Keane, like any ordinary boy, loves potato chips but he isn't able to tell you that. Instead he lets you know this by pointing to the chips.

Keane is autistic and, like most autistic children, uses hand gestures to communicate wants and needs, as opposed to vocalising them.

After undergoing speech therapy for several years, he has made significant improvements and can now put his request in simple words, as opposed to just gesturing, says his mother Gene Ng, 36.

"Keane doesn't socialise much and is an introvert. He only communicates if he wants something and only answers if you ask questions. He used to gesture when he wanted something but now he can make a request in words. For example, if he wants to eat a potato chip, he will say "I want eat".

Keane has three other siblings. His younger brother, Ethan, 3, (Ng's third child) is also autistic.

However, despite having speech difficulties like Keane, Ethan has a milder form of autism and is more outgoing. He also interacts well with his other siblings, says Ng.

He has also benefited from speech therapy which has helped him to identify and label things (associate words with things) as opposed to using only hand gestures to communicate.

"Sometimes, when they are throwing what you think is a tantrum, they are actually trying to communicate with you. Speech therapy teaches them to speak up and also makes it easier to communicate with them," she says.

Similarly, Peggy Chai's autistic daughter has also benefited from speech therapy.

"When she turned 4 last year, she had yet to learn to talk. But within a year (of seeing the therapist), we could see a difference," says Chai.

It took half a year to get results, with a lot of extra effort from her and her husband to work on exercises with their child.