More autistic children, but few therapists

Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Issue 1150, Page 2
Word count: 331
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

Macau is desperately in need of more qualified speech and occupational therapists in order to provide timely training for the increasing number of children with learning disorders, said the Macau Child Development Association (MCDA).

The non-profit association is currently offering therapists and educational programs to less than 30 children mainly aged between five and six.

However, there are already 208 children with autism or learning disabilities such as dyslexia and dysgraphia being placed on the association’s waiting list and the number is “increasing”, said Eliana Calderon, coordinator of the MCDA.

There are two occupational therapists and one speech therapist working for the association. Yet, Calderon pointed out that one therapist can only support a maximum of 10 children.

Kirsten Chang, a young occupational therapist who studied the profession in Australia, said that the therapy has to be conducted one-on-one or otherwise the child will not be able to benefit from it.

She said that she was “very upset” by the long waiting list. “In the US or Australia for example, children will be treated early at one to two years old once they are diagnosed with learning disorders.”

Due to the serious lack of related therapists in Macau, Chang said she acknowledged that many families have to send their children outside, mainly to Hong Kong, in order to receive timely treatment.

She also pointed out that speech and occupational therapies are a newly emerging industry in the territory, and society and the Government do not pay much attention to the importance of it.

However, the Orient Foundation is going to present a MOP 1,188,370 cheque to MCDA tomorrow to help fund its second Taipa service centre and also the renovation works at the Macau centre.

A Halloween charity day will also be held on October 30 at Grand Lapa. Children from MCDA will do a ‘trick or treat’ donation in the afternoon, while at night a charity costume party will take place with all the proceeds going directly to the association.

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