Son inspired her to start special needs school
Mother of boy with Asperger syndrome starts special needs programmes
Her own experience gave her the drive to help others.
In 2003, Madam Faraliza Zainal's firstborn was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, a form of autism.
Her son Mohd Ashraf Mohd Ali was three.
For Madam Faraliza, as with the many other caregivers in her shoes, it was the start of a journey of ups and downs, especially when it came to her son interacting with other people.
Madam Faraliza told The New Paper of a hurtful incident when her son was six.
He had disturbed another child during a visit to the zoo.
Madam Faraliza, 45, recalled: "The father told me angrily, 'Can you teach your son some manners?'
"That was extremely upsetting."
Madam Faraliza admitted that the early days were tough for her and her husband.
During an MP home visit in 2006, Mohd Ashraf spat at the MP.
But raising a child with autism led Madam Faraliza to realise the importance of education specifically tailored for children with special needs.
She left her high-flying job with Dow Jones in 2011 to set up My Islamic Journey Education Hub (MIJ).
It started as a weekend madrasah for students with special needs, aged between five and 30.
The school proved popular and it began a full-time English-language holistic programme last year, combining religious education with numeracy, literacy and life skills.
The weekday programme is endorsed by the Singapore Islamic Scholars & Religious Teachers Association, and it caters to students aged between 17 and 30.
Before founding MIJ, Madam Faraliza earned an advanced diploma in special needs education, became a certified play therapist, and researched other methods of therapy.
"Being a mother of an autistic child helps because you need hands-on experience," said Madam Faraliza, who also provides on-the-job training fir her five full-time teachers and 19 part-time teachers.
Her son is among those enrolled. They include students with Down syndrome, dyslexia, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
The school now has 180 students.
Lessons at MIJ take a more practical approach.
"We take them to the supermarket and give them a list of things to purchase. They also carry calculators with them to calculate the price," said Madam Faraliza.
Other activities include baking, gardening and even self-defence lessons, courtesy of a mixed martial arts studio.
For MIJ's special educators, such as Miss Nur Faezah Misngadi, 25, shaping the minds of the students every day is not an easy feat and requires plenty of patience.
"We need support from all facets of society. There is always talk of help for those with special needs, but how exactly are you helping them? You need to walk the talk," she said.