Jasmine Manuel (centre) and Cikgu Ayu of the Special Children Society of Ampang have a special bond with their students at the school.
“Hi! Hi! Hi!” exclaimed Arif Adil Isham as he jumped around excitedly in a dimly lit room, all the while under the watchful eye of his teacher. Arif – who has autism spectrum disorder – is one of over 60 students at the Special Children Society of Ampang (SCSOA); a centre that cares for children with special needs to equip them with the skills necessary to be a part of society.
“He is a very friendly child and is always excited to meet people and make new friends,” said Ayu Najwa, fondly known to her students as Cikgu Ayu. “Every now and then though, we bring him here into the sensory room to calm him down.” Wholly funded by Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) Malaysia, the sensory room is a safe space for children who are intellectually and developmentally challenged and comes furnished with multi-sensory equipment from the UK – designed to stimulate the five primary senses of Sight, Sound, Touch, Smell and Taste in a trusted and relaxed atmosphere. In celebration of RMHC’s silver jubilee, the Sun takes its readers on a journey to discover the charity’s work in enriching the lives of underprivileged children and helping them achieve their full potential.
FOR BRIGHTER DAYS
Operating out of an urban residential neighbourhood in Ampang, the SCSOA started out as a play group founded by president of SCSOA, Christine Wong. “SCSOA first started out as a play group for children with special needs–including my own daughter– that I formed with a few other parents. Back then, there weren’t many places for us to turn to; for information, for encouragement and most importantly, for support,” said Christine. “As our play group continued to grow, we eventually decided to open a centre that was better equipped to handle the needs of our children.
The process to getting our own place was a struggle; nobody wanted to take us in as they generally shy away from housing people who are developmentally challenged. We had to search high and low before finally settling in our own sanctuary here in Ampang. But it’s all worth it in the end.”
“We truly owe our very existence and success today to the steadfast support we’ve received along the way; from fellow parents to other members of the public, the government to organisations like RMHC,” added Christine. “We are particularly grateful to RMHC for not only providing the sensory room but also including us in their many other activities that involve the children.”
Founded by two Dutch psychologists in the late 70s, a multi-sensory room was initially introduced as a therapeutic facility for people with learning disabilities. Over time the concept grew to fit the needs of others; even for those under palliative care. Ideally, a sensory room is able to de-stress its occupant and get them to improve concentration and focus their attention after a therapy session in the room.
“The sensory room has helped us a lot since its addition into our centre in 2011. Throughout that period, we were able to see a tremendous change in our students as they are able to manage their behaviour better,” shared SCSOA principal Jasmine Manuel. “It’s comforting to know that our students have a place to unwind whenever they feel vulnerable or under pressure. The needs of each child is addressed differently and different treatments are identified in accordance to what is required.”
Today, the SCSOA has enrolled up to 63 students aged 6 to 36 years old and all 14 staff at the centre are fully qualified in handling children with special needs. At the centre, students are taught subjects including English, Mathematics and Science. Besides that, functional academics such as living skills and self-help skills are taught to help the students succeed in real-life situations at home, school, work and in the community. There are also workshops held regularly to teach the students skills such as baking, sewing and even car washing.
“My message to all parents out there is to never give up. No matter how difficult it may be at times, know that you are not alone in your struggles. Being a part of SCSOA has shown me there is hope if you keep going and continue to do your best in raising your children,” said Christine. “We’ve come so far from where we started – two of our students have even managed to secure jobs. We are very proud of our children and their achievements so far and we hope to continue doing what we do here at the centre with the support and compassion of our fellow Malaysians. Ultimately, we aim to raise our children to be confident and independent; so that they are able to sustain their lives with dignity and pride.”
RMHC Malaysia is one of 300 RMHC Chapters worldwide that aim to positively impact young lives in the areas of health, education and welfare through its four core programmes – Ronald McDonald House (RMH)- PPUKM, Ronald McDonald Sensory Room, Ronald McDonald Gift of Smile and Ronald McDonald Scholarship. RMHC Malaysia currently maintains 20 sensory rooms nationwide and aims to open at least one sensory room in every state in Malaysia. For more info please visit – http://www.rmhc.org.my/