Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Friends come to visit KAMI Playgroup

Hi everyone! Welcome to yet another update on KAMI, a non-profit playgroup for children on the autism spectrum held at Masjid Kg Tunku, Petaling Jaya. We had our 7th fruitful session on 13 January 2018 and best of all, we were joined by a couple of new friends. They very kindly lent us their support and encouragement, which means a great deal to us at KAMI. I am so grateful that KAMI is growing from strength to strength with support from members of the community. 

An overview of KAMI Playgroup in full swing.

Our volunteer Denise helping one of the children during the fine motor task.

For this week's playgroup session, we welcomed 7 children, 6 parents and 2 volunteers - Kila and Denise, who brought along her two boys. We began our session, as usual, with circle time for Salam, Alfatihah and Zikir, and this was quickly followed by music and movement to a few upbeat action songs.

Music and movement to action songs is our favourite warm up activity.

Next, we did a simple gross motor activity to help get our bodies moving. Using balloons and paper plates, we played "tennis" and the children tried to keep the balloons off the floor. Though this seems like a very simple activity, it contains many hidden benefits. It encourages the children's hand-eye coordination, visual motor and even midline crossing.


After they got our wiggles out, the children engaged in a table task with fine motor play activity. Now to some, it may seem counter-intuitive to get the children "excited" before a table task, where they need to sit down for an extended period and focus.

However, I've learnt from several experienced occupational therapists that it's good to start with gross motor activity for vestibular and proprioceptive input, before you get the child to do a seated table task. This is because the gross motor activity helps to activate their bodies and settles some of their sensory needs.

In fact, throughout a child's day, it's good to schedule sensory breaks in the form of gross motor activity. This helps break the monotony and help children focus better. For this week's table task, we did a fine motor activity using coloured pasta and string. Some of the children even made necklaces for their mums.

The children did great with this fine motor activity. 

Our penultimate activity for the day was an arts and crafts session. This activity encourages focus and seated behaviour, as well as creativity. For this week's art session, we gave the children crayons and paints to create their own mixed media artwork. Last, but not least, we cleaned up the area together, with help from the children. Then we sang the Goodbye Song and dispersed.

My son Arif (in black t-shirt), loves to experiment with paint.

Besides welcoming our volunteers, we also had the pleasure of receiving three special guests, Puan Hajjah Nor Yasmin, President of CBR Network, En Shahrin and his wife Puan Ros. They met with Puan Hajjah Salmah, the Head of Masjid Kg Tunku's Education Bureau and the parents in our playgroup. Alhamdulillah for such a wonderful day with all our friends.
Me with Puan Hajjah Nor Yasmin and En Shahrin at CBR Network, PDK Ara.

Puan Hajjah Salmah with Puan Rose.

Puan Hajjah Yasmin and En Shahrin took time to speak to some of the parents in our group.

To learn more about KAMI Playgroup's launch, click here.
To see what we've done in our previous playgroup sessions, click here.
To locate Masjid Kg Tunku (Ar-Rahman), click here.

Thursday, January 11, 2018


It's wonderful when parents and children are engrossed in an activity together

About KAMI
Hi everyone! If you've visited before, welcome back to my blog. And if you're new here, I'm so glad you could join me. Today, I'm pleased to tell you about KAMI Playgroup, a special playgroup that I started with a friend and fellow autism mum a few months ago.

KAMI, which is an abbreviation for Kumpulan Anak Autism Masjid (Roughly translated to "The Mosque's Children with Autism Group") is a non-profit playgroup catering to children with autism and their families. Our playgroup sessions are held every Saturday at Masjid Kg Tunku, Petaling Jaya.

Our group consists of children aged between 3 to 9 years, most with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their neurotypical siblings. They have different levels of ability and areas of concern. In order to cater to all, and due to our limited resources, we try to keep our activities as simple as possible. Parents are encouraged to modify the activities where necessary to suit their child's specific needs. 

Alhamdulillah, last weekend on 6th January, we held our 6th KAMI Playgroup meet and the first for 2018. In this session, we welcomed 7 parents, 8 kids and 3 volunteers, two of whom are from a new student volunteer group called Diffable.

How we begin
We usually start our playgroup session by sitting in a circle on the floor. This week, after I introduced Adilah and Hanan from Diffable, we exchanged Salam, recited doa Alfatihah, as well as simple zikir for children. Usually, we say "Alhamdulillah, thank you Allah." The purpose of beginning our session in this way, is to seek blessings from Allah SWT and hopefully calm  the children. It also signals to the children that the playgroup session has begun.

Here's how we start our day at KAMI Playgroup, with salam, doa and zikir.

Music and movement
After the opening, we all get up on our feet for Music & Movement. The purpose of this activity is to warm up the children's bodies. It is also a visual and auditory motor activity that encourages the children to learn how to mimic others' movements and move to the music. At KAMI, we support all levels of participation. If a child isn't comfortable enough to join in the activity, we provide an understanding environment where he or she is encouraged to join in next time. In this week's session. the volunteers and I showed the families how to move to two action songs - "If you're happy and you know it" and "Head, shoulders, knees and toes."

When it's time for Music and Movement, everyone starts grooving to encourage the kids to let loose.

Gross motor activity
After we move about, we usually engage in an Indoor Play session. Each activity we do has a purpose, and our Indoor Play aims to develop the children's gross motor, fine motor, turn-taking, socialising and joint attention skills. For this week's indoor play session, we did two activities.

The children navigated the obstacle course with a little help from their parents.

The first activity involved an obstacle course. The children needed to balance a plastic ball on a cardboard tube, then walked in a zig zag pattern around cones, balance themselves on folded exercise mats and then a bench, before dropping the ball into a container at the end. This was repeated several times to music.

The children patiently waited their turn.

The aim of this activity is to provide the children with vestibular and proprioceptive input, as well as to encourage their balance and focus. All our kids usually love this sort of  activity. But if we don't do obstacle courses, we will do exercises instead to mix things up. We do stretching and bouncing exercises on gym balls, as well as play games with bean bags, balloons, balls and so on. As explained by several occupational therapists whom I've trained with, gross motor activity is a 'sensory break' that helps the children to feel more settled down. This in turn enables them to better engage in the table tasks that are coming up next. In short, we activate the body before we activate the brain.

You can learn more about sensory breaks here.

Arif dropping his ball into the container at the end of the course, which was held by Adilah.

Fine motor activity
For our second Indoor Play activity that day, the children did some fine motor play. They were given a mix of macaroni and beans, which they had to separate with tweezers. This proved to be a bit tricky for some of the younger children, like my son Arif, because he was a bit distracted. However, he still liked to play with the macaroni and beans to feel their texture.

Click here to learn more about the benefits of fine motor play.

Arif didn't want to use tweezers and occupied himself with disturbing his friend Fateh instead. Fateh was very patient with Arif.

Separating beans and macaroni with tweezers is a good visual and fine motor activity. 

Hanan helping to demonstrate how to separate the beans and macaroni.

Sensory play or arts and crafts
The last activity of the day was a Sensory Play session, instead of our usual arts and crafts. The purpose of this tactile activity is to stimulate the senses, encourage focus and seated behaviour, as well as help with tactile defensiveness. For this week's sensory play, we gave the kids shaving foam and water beads. It was good, messy fun! For most of the kids and families, this was the first time they had ever played with shaving foam. We like to introduce new activity ideas to parents through our playgroup, so they can do them at home.

You can learn more about the importance of sensory play here.

If we don't do sensory play, we will do arts and crafts instead. Besides being a good sensory and fine motor activity, arts and crafts also encourages creativity, thinking, exploration and joint attention. In each activity that we do, parents engage with their children and encourage them. This is especially crucial, because parents sometimes struggle to engage with their ASD child. It also offers some parents the golden opportunity to bond with their child over a new activity. I always remind the parents to focus not on the final product, but the process. We must take the chance to enjoy the process with our children, no matter what the outcome.

Why shaving foam and water beads? It provides the children with a chance to explore their senses. 

Arif loved squishing the water beads :) Good exercise for the fingers.

Clean up and goodbye
To wrap up our session, we all pitched in to clean up little hands, the bins and the space. Then we sang the Goodbye song as we normally do. It's important to have the same structure of activities each week, so that the children know what to expect and when the session is over. So far, this structure of activities has worked well for our group of children.

Even goodbye is a happy time at KAMI Playgroup.

Another fruitful session
Alhamdulillah, everything went well in this session. Overall, the children were able to follow the flow of activities well as usual, now that they have warmed up to the place and all the new faces. If the children weren't interested or able to engage in an activity, we encourage the parents to try the activity again at home.

The volunteers, Puan Salina, Adilah and Hannan did a great job in the set up of materials, engaging with the children and parents, as well as helping me clean up the classroom and organise the materials. After the session, Adilah and Hannan sat in a meeting with Puan Hajjah Salmah and I to discuss about 2018 plans for KAMI and future contributions by Diffable. It was a full and rewarding morning, and we certainly crammed a lot into an hour of play!

Puan Hajjah Salmah, The Head of the Education Bureau of Kg Tunku Mosque talking to Adilah and Hanan from Diffable.


KAMI Playgroup is a non-profit, community-run playgroup. Currently, we are operating as a 6-month pilot project (Nov 2017 to April 2018) under the auspices of Masjid Kg Tunku. If we succeed in this six-month period, we will be able to continue and work on securing funding. Now that we've gotten into the swing of things, we'd like to make further improvements in 2018. But we need YOUR help to achieve this!

We are currently looking for:

1. Volunteer teachers and teaching assistants: Must have a passion for helping special needs children and families. No experience is necessary, training will be provided.

2. Special needs specialists: Therapists (occupational, speech, physio etc), special needs educators,  and experts who can share their knowledge and expertise (give talks or training to our teachers & parents).

3. Funds: We require funds to purchase play equipment and supplies for our weekly activities. We also wish to hire and train full-time teachers.

Currently, there are only two of us running the show (Hasniyati - Administration and Adline - Programmes and activites) with Puan Hajjah Salmah as our advisor. In order to grow and accommodate more children and families, we need more teachers and volunteers.

If you're keen on lending us a helping hand or making a monetary contribution to our playgroup (for materials, supplies and training), do get in touch with me at Thanks!

To learn more about KAMI Playgroup's launch, click here.
To see what we've done in our previous playgroup sessions, click here.
To locate Masjid Kg Tunku (Ar-Rahman), click here.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

KAMI Playgroup's Bittersweet Goodbye

After a 3-week break due to the school holidays, KAMI Playgroup was able to come together one last time in 2017 for our 5th session on 30 December. In this session, we welcomed 6 children and 8 parents. Here's a summary of the activities we did :)

1. Doa
Purpose: To seek blessings from Allah SWT and to calm and activate the children's minds.
Summary: The activity was led by Teacher Ami of Excell Qhalif, who asked us to sit in a circle on the floor. She began with Salam and doa Alfatihah, as well as simple zikir for children.


2. Music & Movement
Purpose: To warm up and activate the chidlren's bodies before they do table tasks.
Summary: Led by Teacher Ami, and with help from parents, the children did action songs. My son Arif (in the black t shirt), who usually prefers to be an observer during this activity, felt at ease enough in this session to participate and mimic the movements for the first time.


3. Indoor Play
Purpose: This activity is to help develop gross motor, fine motor, turn-taking, socialising and joint attention.
Summary: For this indoor play session, we did two activities. The first was bouncing, rocking and stretching exercises on exercise balls.




For the second activity, the children engaged in messy/ fine motor play activity. First, they mixed spaghetti with paint and then they had to put the spaghetti into a mineral water bottle.


4. Arts & Crafts
Purpose: This activity is to help develop fine motor, focus, seated behaviour, sensory integration, thinking and creativity.
Summary: For this week's arts and crafts session, which was led by Puan Adline, the children worked with coloured paper, glue and cotton buds to create a stegosaurus. Parents helped to cut the dinosaur template.


5. Clean Up & Goodbye
At around 12.30 pm, we started cleaning up the area with help from the children. Then we sang the Goodbye Song and enjoyed refreshments that had been prepared as a farewell gesture to Teacher Ami and to close 2017.

Food prepared by Puan Norfadzillah and Puan Siti Hafiza.

Alhamdulillah the session went very smoothly. The children really enjoyed the exercise ball activity and it is beneficial for parents to learn how to use them at home as well. Teacher Ami gave Teacher Adline some suggested activities that can be done for gross motor and fine motor in the future.

Saying goodbye to Teacher Ami and 2017. We look forward to new and rewarding experiences in 2018 :)

Monday, January 1, 2018

Latest book published! Batik Terengganu: Heritage of Today for Tomorrow

Happy New Year everyone :)

One of my biggest highlights of 2017 was the publication of this book, Batik Terengganu: Heritage of Today for Tomorrow, in which I wrote a few articles and assisted with pre-editing. It was a labour of love several years in the making for me alongside two amazing and inspirational women, my mentor Raja Datin Paduka Fuziah binti Raja Tun Uda & my sister from another mother Erna Dyanty 💟 Alhamdulillah it has become a reality. Thank you Erna for delivering this to me, with thoughtful gifts from Mak Engku (a note, a Pyrex bowl and mini perfume - my favourites!) Thank you Department of Museums Malaysia for publishing it. Alhamdulillah I am thankful for such amazing people in my life. I am grateful to be able to continue my passion in writing about the arts even though I have left the museum world and work from home. #passionproject #batikterengganu #writerslife #amazingfriends





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