PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 March, 2010, 12:00am

Professionals, too, are poor at spotting autism

I refer to the article by Melissa Healy ('Parents miss early signs of autism', March 1). I have to wonder if the published study she refers to was as condescending to parents as her own piece.

She writes that much research on autism is based on parental observation. But to which research does she refer? It is unlikely that any true research on autism and its causes is based on parental observations, however accurate they may be.

Furthermore, even if parents are inaccurate, I can tell you that we are not alone. My son was seen by four different paediatricians in three different countries, in addition to several experienced early childhood educators, and not one of them raised concerns about his behaviour.

Not only that, when I told a paediatrician with more than 20 years' experience that I thought my then two-year-old son was autistic, he dismissed my concerns. With that, I lost a year of valuable early intervention.

Incidentally, friends and family were no help either, although I am certain that was not their intention.

Whenever I mentioned my concerns about my child's behaviour or lack of speech they were, to a person, ready with dismissive platitudes about me being too vigilant and over-achieving or my son being a typical boy and speaking late. So much for not being observant.

I do not know who they recruited for this one study but my anecdotal experience has been the opposite of what the study claims. Many of the parents I have met who have a child on the autistic spectrum have aggressively sought diagnosis and intervention for younger siblings.

Healy is apparently unaware, as are many outside the autism community, that every child with autism has the disorder in their own unique way. Therefore, even if you have one child with autism, any subsequent child, if he or she has the disorder, will often present vastly different symptoms.

What point was the article trying to make? That parents don't get the timing right as to the onset of autism symptoms?

Most parents, especially first-time parents, have scant experience with infants and young children.

When we do raise concerns we are often reassured by well-meaning friends or poorly informed professionals that all will be well and that there is a wide range of behaviour that falls within the norm.

Instead of beating up parents for not pinpointing the precise moment their child showed autistic traits, why not put more effort into educating the professionals we rely on for advice?

Deirdre Noble, Pok Fu Lam

Entice serving nurses to stay

I refer to the letter by Jason Ali ('Backing nurse shortage idea', March 3) in response to the letter by Isabel Escoda ('Filipinos could solve our nurse shortage', February 26). The idea seems to be good but it would be impossible to implement.

Hong Kong is much smaller than the United States, Britain and Japan, therefore it would be unwise to follow their policies regarding the importing of Filipino nurses.

The import policy in Hong Kong for professionals is very strict.

The number of migrants allowed in under the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme has to be tightly controlled.

We have to avoid bringing in people for a particular industry in large numbers.

What would be the consequences for Hong Kong if Filipinos were rewarded with permanent residency after seven years of service?

The shortage of nurses in Hong Kong is not due to the lack of graduates.

It is mainly because experienced nurses are leaving, because they have fewer opportunities for promotion, face heavy workloads and have to do overtime.

What the hospitals should do is to improve the remuneration and working conditions for nurses [in public hospitals] so that more Hong Kong people choose to take up this career path.

If this is not done, even nurses from the Philippines will not want to come here.

Doris Siu, Kwun Tong

Conservancy comes first

I do not think there is any need for the government to give the Murray Building in Central to the developer who offers to pay the most ('Murray Building to go to top bid', March 3).

It should choose the candidate who offers the most comprehensive conservancy plan.

The Murray Building is a historic edifice in Hong Kong. Therefore it is very important to strike a balance between development and conservancy needs. But the conservancy needs must always have priority because so much of our past is disappearing and it will continue to do so if we focus only on development.

Kelly Tam, Kwun Tong

Employers cheat helpers

It is not unusual to employ a domestic helper in Hong Kong. So many of us lead such hectic lives that we need someone to do the housework and help take care of the children.

However, it is a shame that some employers are underpaying their helpers ('Maids may protest over blacklist refusal', March 1). The suggestion by a domestic helpers' union of a blacklist for people who underpay is one solution to the problem.

If it existed it might act as a deterrent for employers tempted to act in an unreasonable way, because they would not be allowed to hire anyone else.

The government should also tighten the law and punish people who underpay their helpers.

Financial assistance should also be given to those maids who have been treated unfairly to enable them to take legal action.

I wish employers who hire domestic helpers would show more consideration and try to treat them as part of the family. After all, they deserve fair treatment.

Evita Shei, Kwun Tong

A matter of degrees

The Education Bureau recently sent a survey around to various schools to inquire about which native English speaking teachers have completed a qualification for teaching English as a foreign language.

The entire premise behind the TEFL requirement is so the bureau can defend hiring unqualified NETs with degrees in such fields as events management and cosmetology.

It would therefore be advisable for the bureau to drop the TEFL requirement for those of us that actually have education degrees.

I happen to resent that I am required to complete a TEFL certificate just so that the bureau can justify its practice of hiring people that are not professional teachers.

If your child were sick, would you seek treatment from someone that has a degree in history supplemented with a first-aid course or would you choose a fully qualified medical doctor?

Joseph MacLeod, Yuen Long

Internet subsidy wise investment

The government did the right thing in the budget by granting subsidies of up to HK$1,300 to disadvantaged students so they can have internet access. It can help to solve the problem of not being able to afford broadband fees.

It is not enough to cover a full school year but students will still benefit from the subsidy. However, I think the government should do more.

It should also consider the needs of families who may not be in the low-income category but are still below the pay levels of most middle-class people. They could also do with some aid.

Internet subsidies can help to stimulate pupils' interest in learning. If they could spend more time on the internet it might broaden their horizons.

Cynthia Sze, Tsuen Wan

Gift offers demean schools

Because of the low birth rate, student numbers in schools have declined. As a consequence some schools are offering gifts to tempt parents to enrol their children.

I believe this definitely undermines what should be the defining qualities of any school. It also sends the wrong message to children.

When they see such gifts being dispensed they will think that everything is based on incentives and money.

The most important thing for parents should be the quality of the education provided by the school and the calibre of its students. At the same time, the government should address the problem of the declining birth rate.

Ma Ching-yin, Tung Chung

Bad behaviour

Every day I take the MTR and I am appalled by the behaviour of Hong Kong citizens.

People make a mad rush for free seats. Just the other day, I almost got trampled when a woman beside me charged towards a seat.

I am also disappointed by parents who instruct their children to grab a seat even before the passenger who vacated it has alighted.

I get angry when I see an elderly person boarding and people who are already seated pretend they do not see them.

I have always given up my seat to those in need and I just wish that more Hongkongers would show greater courtesy and consideration. Is that too much to ask?

The MTR Corporation needs a forthright campaign to help eliminate such rude behaviour. It needs to start by having staff in carriages to get people to change their attitudes and behaviour.

Hong Kong must be promoted as a friendly city and the MTR network is a good place to start.

Karen Lam, Tsim Sha Tsui