Meet Lou Sio Ha, a happy mother who is proud of her special son


 
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Issue 136, Page 4
Word count: 1063
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

It was a call from the special school where Lou Sio Ha’s son attended that got the 52-year-old mother out of the blue and made her swear to live a wonderful life ever after following a divorce in 1995.

Ms Lou is the executive board vice-director of the Macau Parents Association of the Mentally Disadvantaged (AFEDMM).

The association, which marks its 16th anniversary today, is a non-profit organisation founded in 1991 by a group of parents who thought Macau could not offer their children sufficient rehabilitation services such as special schooling.

Speaking with the Macau Daily Times exclusively at one of the AFEDMM’s care services centres in Fai Chi Kei yesterday, Ms Lou said her 23-year-old son, Leung Ka Shing, was diagnosed autistic at nine months old in Hong Kong where he was born.

“I found that he didn’t react to any sound as if he was deaf,” Ms Lou said.

However, she never gave up her only child even though she had become a single-mother in 1995 when Ka Shing was just 11 years old.

“I was very upset at that time and thus tried to distract myself by spending all my time at work,” Ms Lou recalled.

She said she thought her son would be fine, as long as there was someone at home taking care of him.

“I brought my unhappiness home. But he seemed didn’t react or complain much about it.”

Yet, she did not know this boy, although suffering from mental deficiency, was suppressing himself in front of his mother but chose to express his sadness at school.

Until one day, she received a call from Ka Shing’s teacher.

“The teacher asked if I were having any family problem. She told me my son was very naughty and emotional,’ Ms Lou said.

It was only at this moment she realised that her behaviour had negatively affected on her beloved son.

“Since then I changed my life value entirely and decided to lead a happy life, for the sake of my son,” she added, “if I’m happy, he will be happy too.”

Proud of her son

Ms Lou said Ka Shing was fortunate enough to have received pre-school education from Caritas Hong Kong at an early age.

She took him to Hong Kong two times every week for linguistic therapy. She would then train his son by herself when at home.

Ka Shing went to a special kindergarten in Hong Kong and then the “combination classes” at Macau Luso-Chinese Primary School in Fai Chi Kei.

During the six years primary education, Ms Lou said he received training five times a week at Concordia School for Special Education.

He was later admitted by Concordia School, the only special school in Macau, to undergo his high school education.

And last year, he completed his studies with an equivalent Year 11 education.

He is now working as an office clerk in Fai Chi Kei and had participated into the swimming events of Macau Special Olympics.

“Parents need to be confident with their children and give them opportunities to see the real world,” Ms Lou said.

“They can’t be stifled from developing their own lives and learning to live independently.”

She said as a parent of a mentally disadvantaged, their responsibility was to find out and help cultivate the children’s strength and potential so that they could adapt to mainstream society as early as possible.

“Ka Shing has now gained his confidence and life value. He has no problem in communication and can take care of himself, but may sometimes experience fluctuated emotion when he is being aroused by some particular noise.”

Linguistic therapy

The AFEDMM received 70 per cent of its funding from the Social Welfare Bureau (IAS) whereas the other from community donation and fund raising activities.

While one career therapist was subsidised by the IAS and the physical therapists were volunteers, Ms Lou said the IAS declined granting the association subsidy for linguistic therapist position.

“The IAS said the special schools had already provided the children with the service,” she told the Macau Daily Times.

However, only parents would understand the biggest challenge for the children was to express themselves in words.

“Developing linguistic therapy service is very important. Parents can also learn the skills at our centre and then help educate their children at home,” she said.

“Because of the difficulty of verbally expressing themselves, they’re easier to have fluctuated emotional.

“Study also found that the earlier they receive the therapy, the more effective the impact will be,” she added.

“They can contribute too”

Ms Lou said society had changed and people with deficiency were having greater acceptance than some years ago.

However, in 1991 a property owner declined the AFEDMM to rent one of his places even after a deposit had been paid.

She said the owner would rather refund the sum after knowing that it would become a centre for the mentally disadvantaged.

Now serving more than 650 families, Ms Lou said parents were now more inclined to unite and speak up their needs in society.

“Parents must have to first accept their own child. These children can do the same as the normal ones can do. We should not label them as minorities who just receive alms from people. They also have the same ability to contribute to society,” she said.

Permanent homes for the severely mental disadvantaged

Last year a mother, who did not recover well from an abdomen operation, hung herself at home because she got depressed about being unable to find a place for her mentally disabled son where he could be taken care of permanently.

“And it was her son to untie the rope after she died,” Ms Lou said.

Another mission of the parent association, Ms Lou said, was to come up with a resolution to have the severely mental disadvantaged well settled after their parents passed away.

Currently there are only one permanent home of this kind for males and two for females in Macau.

“So where can these people go when their parents are too old or died?”

Ms Lou is heading to China’s Hunan province with Ka Shing and some 140 students from different local schools next week to visit the Chinese ethnic groups.

The four-day trip, co-organised by the AFEDMM, provided the mentally disadvantaged people an opportunity to experience a different life and to integrate with the mainstream community.

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