PETALING JAYA: From the outside, the Kampung Tunku mosque here looks like any other, a house of worship, a spiritual sanctuary for the local Muslim community.
But for the past two-and-a-half years, the mosque has been receiving a number of non-Muslim visitors, who have come not for religious purposes but to seek a haven for their children with autism.
Established in late 2017, the Kumpulan Anak Autisme Masjid (Kami) Playgroup provides a safe space for autistic children to indulge in activities like art, colouring and games that also involve parents and family members.
Speaking to FMT, the mosque’s administrator, Wan Huzaini Wan Hussin, says the Kami Playgroup caters to all members of society, regardless of race and religion.
“The most important thing is to fulfil the unique needs of children with autism,” he said, adding the idea for Kami Playgroup was sparked by a teacher who was involved in a programme the mosque organised for autistic children.
Since it was set up, Wan Huzaini said the playgroup has received good response from parents in the Klang Valley as it also provides them with an avenue to seek support from other parents.
“I always say that Kami Playgroup is a place for parents with autistic children to share their emotions, problems and information. They can get support and not feel isolated.”
He is thankful that the local community not only accepts but also supports the programme which is run entirely by volunteers and good samaritans.
“They all give their support, justifying what I always say, that a mosque is not just for worship.”
Adline Abd Ghani, head of Kami Playgroup, described the programme as an affordable resource for low-income families as fees for private autism centres tend to be on the high side.
“I have a child with autism and face problems like other parents who have autistic children, so I understand their needs. They (children) need a place for activities, a place to play,” she said adding the monthly fee per child is only RM30.
The play group, according to her, helps the children improve their social, cognitive, communication and emotional skills, on top of building their confidence.
“The challenge is in planning activities for autistic children of different ages as we accept children aged three to 13.”
The centre however has been temporarily closed because of the Covid-19 outbreak but Adline says they are planning to reopen. A proposal will be submitted to the authorities for approval, and will include SOPs tailored to autistic children and their guardians.
“We know things are not as they were and that we need SOPs to protect the children,” she said, adding she has received many queries from parents on the reopening of the centre.
“If we ourselves, and children who do not have autism, feel stressed being cooped up at home, what more those who are autistic. They may not understand the situation.”