More than 150 young artists grouped together one morning, not so long ago in Klang, Selangor, enthusiastic about the agenda for the day – painting a graffiti art mural together.
The artists? A group of 68 autistic children from the Nasom centre in Teluk Pulai, their parents and teachers, Information Department personnel and members of the media – all who had come together in a spirit of unity, in conjunction with the country’s National Day celebrations themed Negaraku Sehati Sejiwa.
The colourful graffiti measures 1.75m wide and 11.75m long and features the Jalur Gemilang and iconic buildings such as KL Tower, Putrajaya International Convention Centre and Petronas Twin Towers. The mural is set against a backdrop of vivid hues of yellow, blue and red.
Art therapy helps autistic children develop their social skills, foster cooperation among peers and boost self-confidence. To hone these traits, the children were given the opportunity to flex their artistic talents at the Grafiti Negaraku art session.
Many of the students at the centre in Teluk Pulai, who have to cope with communication impairments, were able to express their happy emotions through the graffiti painting.
Aged between three and 18 years old, the children seemed happiest when painting and leaving their handprints on the wall.
“My son Navilan Raja is in his element, having so much fun with colours. It’s nice to see him communicating his feelings through art,” said Tamillarasi Subramaniam, 38.
Six-year-old Navilan, whose smiles were as bright as the paint on his palms, has been in the early intervention programme at the Nasom Centre for three years now. His mother is happy with his progress, especially his social interaction skills and focus. Tamillarasi notices his artistic strengths too.
“Children with autism love colours and structure. He loves to mix and match colours and his creations are fascinating. He was excited to take part in the graffiti project, especially the opportunity to play with a wide range of colours,” said the secondary school teacher.
Information Department director-general Datuk Ibrahim Abdul Rahman said Grafiti Negaraku was aimed at both fostering a patriotic spirit and raising awareness on autism.
“The country is celebrating its National Day soon. In the spirit of National Day, we encourage everyone to come aboard and raise the flag. At the same time, we hope Malaysians will step forward and support people living with autism,” he said, adding that there are over 600 autistic children in Nasom centres across the country.
Also present at the event was Nasom president Datuk Megat Ahmad Shahrani Megat Shahruddin. Megat Ahmad said while awareness on autism had grown over the years, more steps can be taken to further improve lives.
“In the past, people would look differently at children with autism. People never understood their concerns and at times, these individuals were shunned by society. The mindset of Malaysians needs to change. We need to include all children in society. They deserve our help and support.”