Art and autism complement each other seamlessly, as art offers a powerful outlet for visual self-expression and a soothing therapeutic experience. Moreover, it also serves as a gateway to independence for individuals on the autism spectrum. The National Autism Resource Centre (NARC), College of Computing, Informatics, and Mathematics (KPPIM) has embraced this idea, empowering both autistic children and their families through structured art training and an online marketplace platform.

NARC in collaboration with the National Autism Society of Malaysia (NASOM) and with sponsorship from DOW Malaysia initiated an art development program in September 2023. Specifically tailored for children aged 9 to 15 with autism, these six-monthly sessions ran at KPPIM. Participants were introduced to a variety of painting techniques, including Q-tip art, paint pouring, batik, scraping, and stone art. The program aimed to achieve three main objectives; fostering the creation of beautiful artwork by autistic children, educating parents on nurturing their child’s artistic abilities, and facilitating financial independence by promoting and selling the artworks.

Throughout the six-month program, delighted parents witnessed their children flourish under the expert guidance of professional art educators and therapists. Reflecting on her experience, one mother expressed, “My son has always had a passion for painting but struggled with fine motor skills. This class introduced techniques that catered to his abilities, enabling his creativity to shine.” Furthermore, the program facilitated the development of social skills among the autistic participants, as they learned to organize painting materials and engage in communication with each other.

The program’s significant impact stemmed from its focus on empowerment. Instead of solely emphasizing artistic expression, it provided valuable marketable skills. Caregivers underwent training sessions on how to effectively market and sell their child’s artwork for income through three online sessions conducted by experts from the Faculty of Business and Management, UiTM.

The program wrapped up on February 24, 2024 with a modest closing ceremony. During the event, representatives from NASOM and DOW Malaysia presented participants with certificates of participation. Parents and their autistic children expressed sentiments of achievement, boosted confidence, and enthusiasm to persist on this journey. While art therapy is widely recognized for its benefits, this initiative goes beyond by nurturing talents that could pave the way for self-sufficiency among autistic children. This initiative in line with Sustainable Development Goals 3, 4, and 11 (Good Health and Well-being, Quality Education, and Sustainable Cities and Communities), ensures timely support for children and their caregivers, equipping them with the necessary knowledge and resources for optimal growth and development.