PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 June, 2010, 12:00am

Negative take on autism 'cure' is not helpful

I am a parent of a 'recovered' autistic child. It is not clear what position Brenda Peters is actually taking in her letter ('There is no cure for autism', May 28). The main message I got was that there is no known cure for autism and parents should look in a balanced way at all the options, something most prudent people would do. Most parents of affected children do not expect miracle cures.

What we strive for is a form of recovery whereby the child loses the autistic symptoms identified in the diagnosis that cripple learning development and his or her ability to communicate effectively.

These children are largely indistinguishable from their classmates after integration into mainstream learning environments. We can say mission accomplished whenever treatment strategies applied have been successful. Our optimism is not diminished by 'legacy effects' such as personality quirks. Technically, Ms Peters is correct - we have yet to uncover a permanent cure.

However, to have such a negative perspective on strategies that have worked discourages those parents who are considering investigating a strategy that could work for them too. Parents of autistic children learn very quickly that there is no 'one size fits all' treatment since each child has a unique profile. Finding the right mix of strategies is a complex and arduous process, which requires modulation and changes over time. The applied behaviour analysis (ABA) method that Ms Peters refers to (particularly one with a verbal focus) has enjoyed great success in the US. It would be myopic to dismiss it. I applaud Dino Trakakis' success ('Public subsidy urged for autism treatment', May 14).

My child also 'recovered' from the same treatment strategy. My child integrated well into the Clearwater Bay School community and was a stellar student. Now at an international school in Singapore, my child may not be cured by Ms Peters' definition, but excels at rugby and academically and has great friends. Special needs consultants at primary schools in Hong Kong can take into consideration, when giving advice, how and why ABA has worked for some children.

Incidentally, the treatment specialists at the World Autism Congress were not biased as Ms Peters infers. They were distinguished specialists with a track record of success in recovery.

J. Huang, Singapore

Witnesses to crackdown

Lau Nai-keung has equated the Bangkok crackdown to the Tiananmen Square massacre, which he would probably call an 'incident' or 'episode' to spare the feelings of Beijing ('When might is right', May 28).

He justifies the killings in both cases because he says peaceful means initially employed by the authorities did not restore law and order. He accuses the West of perpetrating falsehoods with its media reporting, ignoring the fact that many journalists were witnesses to the carnage in and outside Beijing. His belief is that 'prolonged plotting' by protesters makes violence necessary.

Whether or not 'only' 80 or so protesters were killed in Thailand, and hundreds, perhaps thousands, lost their lives in China, does Mr Lau believe it is OK to execute those who dare to protest against government injustices? Are we now to accept that Mao Zedong was right to exterminate those opposing his ruthless drive towards communism? So if anyone gets in the way of my good intentions, will it be all right for me to kill him?

We need an answer to this fundamental question. Can Mr Lau provide a credible one?

Isabel Escoda, Lantau

Sad reality of dirty business

I read Shirley Yam's Money Matters column ('Jail not the end for disgraced high-flyers', May 22) with interest, as it is something I have often wondered about. A bullet is definitely final, but a jail sentence?

As she says, the publicity passes and who knows what happens to them then.

It also made me wonder how any of the entrepreneurs who make it big on the mainland can do so without reverting to bribery, at least at some point, on their road to riches.

As a teacher on the mainland for some years, I recall some ex-students telling me that though they would have preferred not to do business that way, there really was no way around it if you wanted to succeed.

'This is China,' they would say, somewhat sadly and fatalistically.

Yam is also correct that this kind of 'forgetting' occurs elsewhere.

J. Fearon-Jones, Macau

Abuse leaves mental scars

Animal cruelty has long been a problem in Hong Kong. However, public ignorance is still widespread.

Pets are abandoned daily. Some, when they are found, show evidence of physical abuse.

It is not uncommon to read press reports of appalling abuse and I sometimes wonder how people can be so cruel.

Animals are living creatures and should be shown respect.

It is unacceptable for people to see a pet as a toy and when they get tired of it they decide to just discard it. And yet that is what happens and you see strays all over this city.

I wish people would think very carefully before making a decision whether or not to purchase a pet. They have to be willing to make a commitment and to care for and show affection towards their pet.

When an animal is abused it does not just cause physical harm, it can also leave mental scars.

This kind of inhumane behaviour cannot be accepted in our society.

I do not feel that the government takes this problem seriously enough. And I would extend my criticism to the police who do not seem to appreciate that this is a serious offence.

The government should attach more importance to this problem and enforce the laws which punish those who are cruel to animals.

Joey Ho Yan-yu, Tsing Yi

Passengers set fine example

I travelled to Taiwan with friends and we used the mass transit systems.

We stood on the platform in an area near the train door just as we do at MTR stations. Then we noticed the Taiwanese were queuing and were all standing between the yellow lines marked out for boarding passengers. We felt ashamed and joined the queue.

You seldom see Hongkongers queueing up in this way when waiting for a train. They stand as far forward as possible so they can get a seat. Also, you see people talking loudly on their mobile phones as if they are at home alone and youngsters stay seated even when someone who is elderly is standing next to them. Some passengers lean on the handrail so you cannot hold it.

I welcome the priority seats for people in need in MTR compartments, yet I often see young people sitting on them. They also have these seats on subways in Taiwan and passengers will stand rather than sit on them. I wonder what impression our behaviour leaves foreign visitors.

Passengers must be better behaved and act with civility towards visitors.

Steph Kwok, Wong Tai Sin

Hawker staked out his turf

I refer to the report ('HK$100 fine and a pat on the back', May 26).

Magistrate Jason Wan Siu-ming has done a disservice to the rule of law in Hong Kong as well as traffic safety.

The ice-cream hawker 'was charged with obstructing the pedestrian area at the Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry pier'. Mothers and helpers with baby strollers are routinely driven onto the road full of traffic just to get past these pests. The hawker has staked out his turf, selling products illegally, ignoring multiple warnings from the relevant authorities, all the while driving pedestrians off his turf to face traffic.

For trying to prevent this, the magistrate scolded the frontline enforcement civil servants.

Annelise Connell, Stanley

Hair drug test the best option

The pilot scheme launched in drug rehab centres to test for drugs using hair should be introduced in schools.

A hair sample can record a student's drug use over three months while the urine test only goes back a few days. This will make it more difficult for young people with a serious drug problem to avoid detection. As a student, I would not object to the test being made compulsory.

The test is more expensive, but given that it could help thousands of young people with a drug problem it is worth the extra cost.

There must also be more effective follow-up work with young addicts. The government needs to allocate more resources to counselling of youngsters.

Doris Siu Shuk-yee, Kwun Tong

Too expensive

A pilot drug-testing scheme using hair samples has been launched in drug rehab centres as an alternative to urine tests. It can tell if someone has taken drugs over the previous three months. I do not think it should be introduced in schools. It will not be cost-effective or efficient.

The quick urine test costs HK$10 or HK$180 for a full analysis. One hair test can cost up to HK$1,000. The hair sample must go to a laboratory and this involves additional costs.

Also, it would be easier for a student to fake a hair rather than a urine test. Finally, schools do not have the equipment needed to conduct and analyse random tests. To acquire it would mean additional expenses.

Drug testing using hair samples is still at an early stage and it is not the right time to introduce it in schools.

Morty Choi, Tsz Wan Shan