Fmtnews, Fmtlifestyle, Autistic, Sourdough, Baking

Fmtnews, Fmtlifestyle

Sweeter prospects for the autistic through sourdough

Dr E Joon Khew hopes to set up Autism SourDough’s first store to provide job opportunities for those on the spectrum.

17/6/2021 2:04:00 AM

Dr E Joon Khew hopes to set up Autism SourDough’s first store to provide job opportunities for those on the spectrum. FMTNews FMTLifestyle Autistic Sourdough Baking

Dr E Joon Khew hopes to set up Autism SourDough’s first store to provide job opportunities for those on the spectrum.

Making sourdough bread has become a popular activity during lockdown. (E Joon Khew pic)PETALING JAYA: “Let me give you a hand kneading the dough,” Dr E Joon Khew says to his son, who is trying to make sourdough bread.This is more than just a shared experience between father and son during the lockdown – the kneading action helps Young Khew-Yap, who is autistic, build strength in his wrist muscles, an essential part of developing fine motor skills.

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Khew is the founder of Animals for Young, a learning centre that assists children and adolescents with special needs using cats, dogs and even horses.He explains to FMT that he tried animal-assisted therapy for his son and within three months, saw the positive effect it had on Young’s severe autism.

“After seeing his progress, many parents came forward requesting I start a centre to help other autistic kids,” he says.This led him to establish A Plus for Autism, an organisation that creates and implements educational campaigns on autism and how people can assist the autistic community.

Khew helping his son to knead the dough. (E Joon Khew pic)Things were going smoothly until the movement control order was implemented in March last year, and Khew realised that being cooped up at home led to setbacks in the children’s progress. From this challenge emerged a third initiative, Autism SourDough.

He says the steps involved in producing sourdough bread help autistic children to develop fine motor and functional skills, and also serves as therapy.“To bake sourdough bread, one needs to follow a specific set of rules, which is critical for someone with autism,” Khew explains.

“Working with a wet dough which is quite sticky is helpful in areas of sensory processing. The stickiness tends to be an annoyance to them, so it works on their patience and focusing skills.Young Khew-Yap’s loaf is ready for the oven. (E Joon Khew pic)

“Tracking the progression of the sourdough starter requires sensory cues such as smell, sound, sight and tactile sensation, while kneading helps develop strength and muscles.”Additionally, sourdough bread is not only delicious but also improves digestion and gut health. It lowers insulin and blood-sugar levels compared with other types of bread and contains higher levels of protein.

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The good doctor has set his sights on more than just encouraging autistic kids to bake. He hopes to provide a source of income for autistic people by setting up a physical store for Autism SourDough, to be located in either Kuala Lumpur or Cyberjaya.“Sourdough bread is a booming market,” he says. “We not only plan to teach and train our students but also help market the products made by them.”

Sourdough bread is delicious and good for you. (E Joon Khew pic)Khew has set up an online fundraising page as RM50,000 is required to make the physical store a reality. Contributions will be used for essentials such as refrigerators, ovens, mixers, kitchen setup, rental and ingredients.

“Autism SourDough’s store will not solely be a baking studio but a mix of bakery and cafe. We want it to be an experience centre, and a place for the public to be able to interact with them and see them from a different perspective.“We want to promote autism awareness in society for the acceptance of our special children through this industry.”

If you are interested in supporting Autism SourDough, clickto find out more about their fundraising campaign. Read more: Free Malaysia Today »

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