Feature: Easing Parents’ Worries
Care Support for Parents with Autistic Children
Most parents want to give their children the best of everything. When Yiu-kwong’s mother found out her son had autism and mild intellectual disability, she chose to tough it out and bear it without complaint. Decades have slipped away in a blink of an eye. Now this hoary-headed woman’s health is deteriorating, but she still has to provide personal care for her almost-40-year-old son. What about the future? She could not relax until she learnt about the care and support services provided by The Salvation Army.
Yiu-kwong’s mother, a tired-looking woman in her 70s, walked slowly with crutches and accompanied her son into The Salvation Army Lai King Home. Taking care of her autistic son all by herself, the single mother found the burden so heavy to be taken up alone, having no one to share with. She could not but suffer in silence.
Carrying It All Alone
When Yiu-kwong was in kindergarten, his mother already noticed something wrong: why did he only play by himself? She was aware of his condition and arranged for an assessment in a hospital, where he was diagnosed with autism and mild intellectual disability. In those days, the general public in Hong Kong did not have much understanding and awareness of autism, nor were there widespread support services. Yiu-kwong’s mother knew little about community support, so she could only carry it all alone.
Owing to physical and psychological changes during adolescence, Yiu-kwong’s mental health was greatly affected by insomnia and adolescent temper tantrums. His mother had no choice but to admit him to the hospital. She waited until her son finally came home, but a number of parenting challenges were waiting for her. With poor social skills, Yiu-kwong’s enthusiastic and proactive personality has scared off women. Lacking in analytical ability, he listened to the law-breakers who told him to keep buying illegal cigarettes which were laid all over his bed. He even imitated smoking. Also, he had little self-control over food. His mother prepared three light meals a day to help him stay healthy. This heavy burden made her suffer from depression. She had fainted and was rushed to the hospital more than once.
Stress Relief for Caregivers
In 2010, through a community support centre, Yiu-kwong’s mother was thrilled to learn about the residential respite service offered by The Salvation Army Lai King Home. She joined The Salvation Army Share-care - SHINE Project (Critical Moment Intervention for Autistic Persons and Their Families). “I can take a break and life’s not so hard when I don’t have to prepare all three meals every day,” she said smilingly. “Now I don’t worry about a thing.” The meals provided by the residence are so delicious and nutritious that even someone as finicky as Yiu-kwong has no complaints. He attends day care service three days per week and stays at home the rest of the week. When his mother falls ill and is hospitalised, Yiu-kwong will stay at the Army residence so that his mother can set her mind at rest.
The Army offers emotional counselling to Yiu-kwong, which has helped alleviate his obsessive-compulsive disorder symptom of hand-washing. Different interest activities are also arranged to help him identify his artistic talent. “I’m really good at pottery making. I made cups, tables…” Yiu-kwong turned his familiar furniture into lifelike miniatures that really impressed his mother. When being asked about household chores, Yiu-kwong stopped smiling and pouted, “I have to sweep the floor and change the bed sheets… it’s very tiring and makes me sweat.” His mother answered at once, “You must learn to do things you are able to do by yourself.” Now, Yiu-kwong lessens his mother’s burden by tidying up clothes and mending blankets at home.
“How I wish I knew the Army earlier,” said Yiu-kwong’s mother. While Yiu-kwong is queuing for a place in a residential home, he can stay in a familiar neighbourhood together with his mother during this transitional period, and receive appropriate assistance from the Army in times of need.
Reach out to “Hidden Families” around You
Ms Hung Nga-sin, a social worker of The Salvation Army, said that the stress of parents with autistic children mostly comes from the discrimination and disdain in society. That is why some needy families have become “hidden”. They do not want to be seen and even do not know where to look for community support services. In fact, they long for acceptance and tolerance from all of us. If you identify such families around you, begin by saying hello and get to know one another, then build up a trust relationship through simple greetings and caring actions, such as sharing food and helping with chores. When you notice their needs for community assistance, please contact The Salvation Army Share-care - SHINE Project.
Enquiry: 2744 1511
Share-care - SHINE Project
Starting from 2001, The Salvation Army has implemented support services catering to the needs of autism families. The Share-care - SHINE Project (Critical Moment Intervention for Autistic Persons and Their Families) provides services for autistic persons aged over 15 and their family members. The out-of-home services include short-term residential care and training that help autistic persons to reestablish daily routine, positive emotions, social communication, etc. On the other hand, the homebased services include on-site professional consultation and guidance, boosting the confidence of parents or caregivers so that they are able to take up the training and disciplining roles.
The project provides personal and family counselling services. Through themed workshops and parent-child groups, parents/caregivers will grasp the training skills as well as the knowledge of looking after autistic persons. Also, a mutual aid network among these families will be established.