Autistic children can do so much

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 January, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 January, 1994, 12:00am

IN Dr Rose Ong's question and answer column (South China Morning Post, January 5), there was a letter concerning autism.

While I, as a parent of a child who has been diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder (a subgrouping of autism), was happy to see a letter asking Dr Ong to ''describe this condition in detail'', I felt Dr Ong's response came right from an outdatedbook on autism.

As Dr Ong should well know, the doctors themselves are not sure exactly what autism is, and the catchphrase of autism encompasses a vast range of high to low functioning people. My son is almost nine years old, and through many years of hard work, behaviour modification, and good teachers, he has come a long way. This is not the same child that was originally diagnosed at 31/2 years old.

Although I commend Dr Ong's attempt at enlightenment for the folks who do not understand what autism is, I don't feel she dealt with the human aspect of autism.

Her closing remark that ''only 15 to 20 per cent lead any form of independent life'' was a terrible blow to the heart of any parent of a child that has been diagnosed autistic. I personally know this to be incorrect but what about the parent that is justnow being told that their sweet, beautiful child is diagnosed autistic.

Dr Ong, don't put limitations on our children, we certainly cannot afford that luxury. We must push our children harder to succeed to the best of their abilities.

Every parent who has a child diagnosed with autism, is confronted with fear of the unknown, because we as a society have placed far too great an importance on labels.

Look first to the phrasing in the letter to Dr Ong, ''the boy was autistic''. Dr Ong would have helped the autistic community far better had she replied, this boy although diagnosed with autism still needs to be part of a group, with friends to play with, next to, or in the same room with. He is after all still a boy, with real feelings.

He can feel happy to have friends, just as he can be crushed with sadness that no one wants to be his friend.

The important issue is not to add to the feeling that people diagnosed with autism can't succeed, but to encourage them to succeed.

JO ARAZI Hong Lok Yuen Dr Rose Ong replies: It is heart-warming and inspiring to hear of Mrs Arazi's dedication to her son. It should serve as a lesson to all parents faced with a child who is identified with having special needs! I could not agree more with her in saying that more focus should be placed on the humanistic aspect of interfacing with both the parents of the children diagnosed with autism.

Thanks for sharing such a difficult but encouraging experience with our readers.