Interview #2 (Psychologist)
Wong Mui Fong is a clinical Psychologist in one of Hong Kong Hospital. She had received master degree (Master of Social Science in Clinical Psychology) in 2005 from the Chinese University Of Hong Kong.
1. For how long do you involve with kids with autism?
I have been involving with the research of autistic children since I was in M.Phil, i.e. 2003-2004. But for clinical treatment on children with autism, it should be from 2005-2007.
2. Can you give us some examples of the symptoms that the kids have?
Poor eye contact or stare at space
Difficult to differentiate 'you' and 'me'
Infrequent attachment behaviours, e.g., hugging, clinging, soothing, pleasing
Poor understanding of 'want', 'give'
Indifference reaction to familiar people
Infrequent reciprocal interaction/facial expression
Seldom smile/gaze at others
Poor in expressing and recognizing emotion
Difficult to follow game rules
Poor in friendship building
Infrequent separation anxiety (e.g. when parents leave for work, child leave for school)
Infrequent reunion behavior (e.g. after parent are home)
Seldom seek help when fell down
Seldom locate the parent when explore the situation (e.g. in the playground)
Infrequent pretend play
Infrequent role play
Prefer solitary play
Awkward behavior (e.g. tip-toe walking, self-spinning, watching circling objects,
spinning objects, peripheral vision, head banging, hand flapping)
Fleeting eye gaze when talked to
Difficult to follow to instruction
raises arms when caregiver says 'come here' or 'up'
Poor understand of words
Poor imitation of sound
Delay ability to point at object and major body parts
Seldom show shared attention
Difficult to sustain the conversation
Difficult to differentiate between 'joke' and 'reality'
Delay developmental milestones (e.g. babbling, one word, two words, short sentences)
Awkward language organization and use of words
Delay developmental milestones (e.g. crawl, stand, walk)
Poor motor imitation
Clumsy movement (fine and gross motor)
8. Special interest
Stick to some objects
Touch particular objects
9. Special fear
Sensitive to particular tactile, sound, smell
Some autistic children might have frequent temper tantrums
3. Do autistic kids able to study at the same class as other kids? If yes, do you think it's better for them?
Yes. They could. Coz some of them have normal to supervior intelligence. But whether it's suitable depends on the assistance of the school, e.g. whether the teacher has relevant knowledge about autism, any special technique available (e.g. more visual instruction), whether the teacher would assign a classmate to help the child, etc.)
4. What do you find most difficult when working with autistic children, and why?
It's very difficult to engage with autistic children, given their poor language abilities and ineffective social and communication abilities. They have difficulty to understand what you say.
5. How do you manage to overcome these difficulties?
Usually the intervention is done when they're as young as 3 years old. They're social skills training group to help children to learn to communicate more effectively, as well as parent group to help parents understand the etiology, symptoms, and treatment of autistic children.
6. Have the kids made any improvement through the process?
They do make progress. By the end of the group the children are more responsive to speech and show better sharing attention; and parents have more effective skills to communicate with the children and help them to interact with others.
7. Researchers and scientists say that Autism is fundamentally untreatable. How do you think about it?
Yes. It's untreatable in the sense that the disorder will remind even the child progress to adulthood. But the severity may decrease if proper intervention is given in early age.
8. In your opinion, how important is the role of parents in educating their children and in cooperating with the teachers to help their children?
For developmental disorder like autism, the proper understanding of parents and teachers to the symptoms and treatments of autism are very important. They have to serve as the bridge to help the children interact with the world. If the bridge is not established, the child is disconnected from the world and regress to his/her own world.
9. Lastly, We would like to know your opinion about autism in Hong Kong.
I am not sure about your last question. Anyway I try to answer it out of my understanding. I think it's easier to identify autism now than before, given the more seminars and talks on autism organized by government, non-government organization, and mutual-support groups. Health profession are also more sensitive to the possibility of autism which as a result increase the chance of having these children diagnosed as early as possible. Parents and teachers are more knowledgeable about autism and more patience towards them (though there's still a long way to go). They also got more resources to help them. Autistic children are getting more opportunities to study in mainstream schools, though teachers needed to be trained harder to really entertain their needs. As a conclusion, those related disciplines (e.g. parents of autistic children, teachers, health professions) are more familiar with autistic children, but more techniques and skills are needed to be integrated into home-school environment to help them; On the other hand, the general public probably are still not aware of the problem of these children.