The school was first founded by Husband & Wife, Mohammad Ali Dawood and Faraliza Zainal.
It began when Ashraf, at the age of 18 months, was diagnosed with a rare disease, tuberous sclerosis. The disease caused a benign tumor to develop on a vein leading to his brain. This restricted blood flow, and a doctor warmed that Ashraf might start experiencing seizures. “And true enough, at two years old, he had an epilepsy attack,” she said. The fits, sometimes three a night, kept them up at night. Then their problems snowballed when Ashraf turned three.
He was diagnosed with autism and sensory integrated dysfunction, a condition that makes it difficult for him to feel his body’s limits. Said Mr Ali: “At one stage, he wouldn’t stop eating until he vomited. He couldn’t feel that he was full.”
Mdm Fara admitted: ‘‘I was in denial for two years. I couldn’t accept it.” It wasn’t until a friend told her that God had given her Ashraf “because he knows that you are the only one who can bear and raise him”, that she finally embraced the situation.
She gave up her corporate career and learned how to be a special needs educator. She threw herself into learning about autism by taking up short courses on behaviour management, alternative therapy, and movement therapy. She found that Ashraf responded best to the last.
When MIJ began in 2011, it offered only weekend classes. We soon had 15 students, with Mdm Fara as the sole teacher, training her students motor skills through movement therapy. Finding a space to run classes was the biggest initial hurdle. They encountered numerous rejections before Sultan Mosque agreed to let MIJ have a space. Word soon travelled. After a local newspaper featured us, MIJ found itself rapidly growing. The school filled a gap in services for special-needs students in the community.