Lamma ferry crash

Auntie's Lamma IV collision death, helped her nephew, 6

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 February, 2013, 3:44am

When pictures of the ferry collision off Lamma Island flashed on the TV screen on October 1, little Chen Yin-ho prayed to the Mercy Buddha that his 26-year-old auntie would be safe.

Tragically Mani Lau Man-lai was among the 39 people who died in the October 1 disaster.

But in an unexpected twist of fate, her death has led to improvements in her nephew's life, after officials made follow-up visits to victims' families to see what help they needed.

While Yin-ho looks like any six-year-old boy in Primary One, he was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, an autism disorder, when he was three.

The condition, which makes him hyperactive, had long made him unpopular at school with staff and classmates.

His mother, Mavis Lau Man-fung - Mani Lau's sister - said Yin-ho's disorder means he cannot sit still in class.

His condition was so misunderstood that the principal once asked for Yin-ho to be sent to a school for the mentally challenged, after the boy scratched his hand.

Yin-ho was isolated. He had to eat alone during the Mid-Autumn Festival family lunch, and was not allowed to take part in a Christmas show. Lau saw this as a clear case of discrimination.

Lau said: "I thought about suing the school, but I did not want to, as I was afraid they would pick on my son even more."

Then last year's ferry disaster struck. Government workers made visits to victims' families. When they talked to Lau, they realised she was too busy looking after her hyperactive son to arrange her sister's funeral.

So they asked the Social Welfare Department and Education Bureau to look into Yin-ho's case, which has led to major improvements at school, Lau said.

Staff are showing a new level of patience and understanding in their dealings with him.

They even allowed his mother to sit with him during a recent examination. Lau hopes the trend will continue in teachers' attitudes towards all students with special needs.