Appeal made on project to help autistic students

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 October, 2010, 12:00am

Twenty-year-old Oscar was diagnosed with autism when he was three. Thanks to his parents' support and his own determination, he went to normal schools, passed the eighth grade piano exam and now is studying accounting at university.

His parents put a huge effort into helping him, but it was 'all worth it to see him applying himself', his mother said.

The government should follow this model - autistic children in normal schools - in a pilot project announced in last week's policy address, according to the care group SAHK, the former Spastics Association of Hong Kong.

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said in last week's speech that a pilot scheme would be launched in ordinary primary and secondary schools to improve autistic students' skills in communication, emotion management and learning, to facilitate their studies.

The Education Bureau has suggested a three-year pilot plan, saying it will help schools at which more autistic pupils study.

Further, the Social Welfare Department will increase the number of places for pre-school, early intervention services and training for autistic children, but no details were given.

'We're pleased that the government is going to see to the problem, finally,' said Karin Lai, head of services with SAHK.

The organisation began a two-year project last year, working with 15 ordinary schools willing to take in about 150 autistic pupils and teach them no differently from other pupils. SAHK's team of specialists, including education psychologists and speech and language therapists, will visit the schools to give consultations and support.

Oscar has attended normal schools since he was small, but needed a lot of revision to keep pace with the rest of the class. He also had to see a medical specialist from time to time, to regulate his condition.

'To do all that work, his father and I have put in an uncountable amount of work and money,' his mother said. Monthly expenses for Oscar have been about HK$10,000.

'Not every family can afford that,' Lai said. 'So it's good news that the government is willing to share some of the required work. Given the experience we have in helping pupils with autism, we'd be happy to offer advice and support,' Lai said.

Help needed

The number of autism cases is growing rapidly

Last year 1,452 children under the age of 12 were newly diagnosed with autism, a big jump from the 2008 figure of: 1,023