Having a child with intellectual disabilities can be a devastating blow to parents. But Wong Kit-fong says she is a happy and contented mother. Her son, Tam Wai-yip, 21, was diagnosed as mildly mentally handicapped and having autistic tendencies when he was two. Last Sunday, he received the top prize in the Outstanding Persons with Intellectual Disabilities awards organised by local charity group Lok Chi Association. The ceremony, which took place at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, aimed to commend people with intellectual disabilities for their contribution to society. It also aimed to enhance public understanding and appreciation of their talents. More than 35 candidates were nominated by rehabilitation organisations and special needs schools. First runner-up was Wong Wai-fun, a 35-year-old woman from Po Leung Kuk Kwun Tong Hostel with a medium case of mental handicap. Lai Ngan-yuk, a 38-year-old woman from Wai Ji Christian Service who suffers from a mild degree of mental handicap, was second runner-up. Their volunteer work promoting the welfare of people with intellectual or physical disabilities was deemed outstanding. The award was not Mr Tam's first - he has collected numerous prizes for swimming, most notably two gold and two silver medals and a bronze medal at the 1999 Special Olympics World Summer Games in North Carolina, as well as a silver and a bronze at the FESPIC Youth Games for the disabled in Hong Kong in 2003. He is an ardent sports promoter and was the Hong Kong delegate to the Global Athlete Congress of the Special Olympics in Panama City last year. He has also been the Leisure and Cultural Services Department's School Sports Ambassador. 'I swim mainly to train my body. But taking part in sport has made me a more open person,' said Tam, who was nominated for the award by his former school, Shatin Public School in Tai Wai. 'Sport gives me the opportunity to learn many things about the world and has changed my attitude towards winning and losing. 'At first, I always wanted to win so that I would be proud of myself. But now I take part in competitions to learn and enrich my life.' Mr Tam says he owes his achievements to his teachers and family, particularly his mother. Ms Wong admitted she was very worried when she first learned that her son may have developmental problems, including being trapped in his own world, talking to himself and being prone to mood swings. 'It's very important to be positive and accept that your child is disabled. Children [with intellectual disabilities] may develop slower in some areas, but they also have their unique talents. Parents have to unearth these talents and appreciate their improvement,' said Ms Wong. For parents who have children with intellectual disabilities, Ms Wong says patience is the key. 'Wai-yip has taught me to be patient. Parents have to repeat instructions again and again. But after a while, when things add up bit by bit the child will suddenly make a huge improvement. That will make parents very happy,' she said. Mr Tam now works as a clerical assistant at the Watsons Athletic Club. He says he is happy with his life because he lives each day to the fullest. 'Hong Kong people are under a lot of pressure,' he said. 'It's important to plan for the future, but the most important thing is to lead a happy and meaningful life.'