Statistics show that the majority of local students who seek child and adolescent psychiatric service suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as the second major case.
Autism spectrum disorder is a range of psychological conditions. According to epidemiology studies carried out by the University of Hong Kong in 2007, 5.49 in 10,000 Hong Kong children are diagnosed as autistic, with boys outnumbering girls.
The number of autistic students in mainstream schools rose to 10,300 last year from 4,970 in 2013, according to data from the Education Bureau.
The public is quite familiar with an intellectual disability called mental retardation.
But less heard of are autism, Asperger syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder (PPD), which comprise the autism spectrum set by the American Psychological Association in 2013.
Contrary to popular belief, about 30 percent of autistic children achieve high scores in intelligence tests, according to overseas statistics.
Autism has long been classified as a neuro-development disorder. Patients are challenged in social interaction and verbal communication, and have difficulties in cognitive and adaptive skills.
They often perform repetitive and restricted behaviors and have narrow interests that can trigger a range of emotional and behavioral problems.
Some autistic children may improve their social skills through regular check-ups and special education.
However, so far there is no specific technology or medication to cure autism. In mild cases, patients may appear just as normal people, yet in serious cases, they lack basic self-care skills.
Since the spectrum of autistic characteristics is so broad, the diagnosis of autism has not reached a unanimous agreement in the medical field.
Most ASD patients also have a sensory processing disorder, and so sensory integration training is usually incorporated in certain ASD treatments.
Clinical evidence shows that such treatments have positive effects on the patient as they can help remove the barriers of ASD by developing the patient’s language, social and self-care skills.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb 27
Translation by John Chui
[Chinese version 中文版]
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