THE Makasih Toy Library has opened up a whole new world of discovery for children with special needs.
The space may be small but the lending library is stacked wall-to-wall with about 500 toys and books specially purchased to aid in their physical, emotional, mental and social development.
The toys, which cost tens of thousands of ringgit, are classified according to 11 categories including gross motor skills, hand-eye coordination and imaginative play.
The library, which was set up four years ago, now serves about 83 children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Down Syndrome, Attention Deficit Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder (ADD/ADHD) or developmental delays.
Grace Lim and her son Dylan Goh, eight, who was born with ASD, have been going to the library managed by the City Discipleship Presbyterian Church ever since it first opened in Subang Jaya in 2010.
The way Dylan and his younger brother Gavin, six, interacted with the toys was a study in contrast.
While Gavin actively invented new ways to use the toys, Dylan would carefully inspect every inch of the toy and calmly pick the ones he wanted to take home.
Makasih has evolved to become more than a library. It has also introduced monthly play groups supervised by about 15 volunteers who are church members trained by Malaysian Care.
The siblings of special needs children are also welcome.
Lim said the play group had helped Dylan improve his communication skills while strengthening the bond between him and Gavin.
“The three-hour-long structured play group has been wonderful.
“I hope they will also introduce arts and music classes,” said Lim.
She added that the toy library had helped tremendously as children need a flow of different educational toys, books and equipment to stimulate them.
“These toys are hard to find and beyond the means of most parents,’’ she added.
Jocelyn Abdullah from Klang also goes to the library regularly with her nine-year-old son who has autism .
They heard about the resource centre from an occupational therapist.
“The support we receive has made a big difference because therapeutic toys for special children can be very expensive.
“The children love coming here as the environment is very welcoming.
“I have two older boys and it is great for them to learn to interact with their brother and others with special needs,” she said.
Makasih has become a sanctuary not only for the children but also their parents, said Makasih chairman Yee Siew Meng.
“It gives parents a respite from their duties as caregivers and an opportunity to recharge.
“Some families have broken up because of the stress and financial burden of having a special child.
“We not only provide a service but a listening ear.
“We have had temporary volunteers who have stayed on and built a special relationship with these children,” he noted.
There are nine volunteers who manage the toy library, all of whom are from the church. They include husband and wife John and Samantha Chung who have been helping out for about a year.
“We wanted to do something meaningful to help the children and their parents,” said John.
In the future, Makasih hopes to provide additional services for parents such as counselling. It has also been organising regular talks on related topics for parents.
The idea of setting up the toy library was mooted by Subang Jaya assemblyman Hannah Yeoh, who is proud of what has been achieved.
“We have and will continue to give RM20,000 yearly to the library,’’ she said, adding that the library had helped parents become better caregivers.
Makasih Toy Library is open on the first three Saturdays of every month with a yearly RM30 membership fee while play groups are conducted once monthly on the first Saturday.
For details, visit www.fb.com/makasih2u or call 03-5621 2844/5.