The second edition of the carnival organised by Permata and Permata Kurnia was launched by Permata patron Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, the wife of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
Also present was Permata Kurnia director Prof Madya Dr Hasnah Toran.
Rosmah, who arrived about 11.30am, spent two hours chatting with visitors, visiting booths handled by autistic children and watching performances by the children on stage.
At 12.20pm, the entire hall was abuzz as those there were given a pleasant surprised.
Najib turned up unannounced and was immediately swamped by children and their families who took the opportunity to take pictures of and selfies with him and shake his hands.
The prime minister spent 30 minutes there, and also got to see some of the performances.
Meanwhile, Hasnah said the carnival was held each year to create awareness about autism and to give autistic children the space and opportunity to get involved in various activities.
She said Permata Kurnia was running several initiatives to help autistic children to learn to stand on their own two feet, including the “Awesome Cafe”.
“This initiative is something we have been doing with Kolej Komuniti Selayang over the past three years, focusing on low-functioning autistic children. Lecturers from the college come every month to Permata Kurnia to teach the children how to cook… this year, they are learning to be baristas.
“We don’t want their lives to end with them being confined to welfare homes… with this initiative, we hope to be able to teach them to fend for themselves, even if it is just them working as baristas or making cupcakes,” she said.
Hasnah said Awesome Cafe gave low-functioning autistic youths the opportunity to earn money, adding that this was something good especially considering the lack of chances for them to firther their studies after school.
“At present, there are 15 autistic youths between 16 and 24 who are training to cook and learning the basics of entrepreneurship. We still don’t have a permanent shop, but we do open up stalls should there be specific functions,” she said.