HONG KONG, CHINA--(Marketwired - Mar 30, 2016) - According to the statistics from the Education Bureau, in 2009-2010 and 2014-2015, there were 2,050 and 4,970 students with autism in Hong Kong respectively. The number has increased more than double over four years.The United Nations General Assembly unanimously declared 2 April as World Autism Awareness Day. To raise public awareness about autism, Autism Partnership Foundation (APF) conducted a survey about "Stress Faced by Parents in Taking Care of Autistic Child" in Februrary and March this year, and successfully interviewed 171 parents of children under 18 with autism from an autism school and local autism organizations. The results of the survey was announced today (30 March) in a press briefing, during which Ms Yvonne Cheung, Senior Case Supervisor of APF, Dr Danny Lam, Chartered Psychologist of the British Psychological Society and Associate Head of the College of International Education, Hong Kong Baptist University, and Ms Scarlett Tsoi, experienced counselor, were invited to analyse the survey findings and offer professional suggestions to alleviate parents' stress.

Hong Kong parents find children not being able to live independently in future the most stressful
Ms Yvonne Cheung said, parents of children with autism were in particular more stressful than the other parents about daily care for, communication with and education of their children. The survey found that among 5 categories of choices, namely "children's social skills", "children's emotions and behaviours", "children's activities of daily living", "schooling, future and prospects of children" and "people's reactions towards children", "schooling, future and prospects of children" was the most stressful for parents. Most parents worried about whether their children could live independently in future, with 70% of the interviewees finding it "so stressful that sometimes they feel they cannot cope", "very stressful on a daily basis" or "often creates stress". Over 60% frequently stressed about their "children's future employment", 15% of them even find themselves "so stressful sometimes they feel they cannot cope".

When asked what changes they would like to see to reduce their stress, over 90% thought that "increasing support in school", "free evidence based treatment" and "increasing choices in schooling" were the most effective ways. Besides, over 90% "somewhat agreed" or "strongly agreed" that people "knowing autism better" and "interacting with children as naturally as possible" could reduce their stress.

HK parents more worried about children's prospect and have different source of stress from Western parents
Dr Danny Lam, whom research area was in Chinese parenting, compared the results of the survey to those of similar surveys conducted in Western countries, and found that Hong Kong parents had different source of stress from their counterparts in Western countries. The survey found that "concern for the future of your child living indendently", "concern for the future of your child being accepted by others" and "concern for future employment" were the most stressful for Hong Kong parents, while Western parents had greater concern for their children's language abilities, social development and self-care abilities. Dr Lam said, "The results reflect that Chinese society still has prejudice against autistic persons. Besides, under the influence of traditional Chinese belief, loal parents tend to plan for children's future." Dr Lam suggested raising people's awareness and understanding of autism through public education to eliminate discrimination.

The survey also found that more than 10% of the mother interviewed found "schooling, future and prospect" of their children "so stressful that sometimes they feel they cannot cope", while only fewer than 10% father felt the same. This reflected that mother faced more stress than father no matter in Chinese or Western societies. Dr Lam suggested father taking a more proactive role in sharing the responsibilities of taking care of their children with their wife to reduce the stress of both sides.

Counselor shares 4 tips to reduce parent's stress
Ms Scarlett Tsoi also shared 4 tips to reduce stress, namely Communication, Acceptance, Realignment and EQ Management, abbreviated to CARE. Ms Tsoi said, "To autistic children, acceptance for their difference is the most important. Austism children have different potentials, just that their potentials are 'locked' and a 'key' is needed to release their potentials. Social skills training help children better adapt to their future life, and prepare them for integration into society. Such training should start early and continue throughout life. As autistic children are weaker in understanding words, the inclusion of different activities in the curriculum can motivate children to learn, while role play can help improve their communication skills. What is more, parents should learn to relax. Apart from taking more rest and doing more exercises, it is important for parents to have hobbies and a social life, as they have to learn how to love themselves before they can devote their lifetime love and care to their children."

APF advocates ABA treatment and provides free services to relieve families' financial burden
Ms Rachel Ho, Development Director of APF, pointed out that family-school cooperation in early identification of ASD, increase of public awareness and acceptance, and appropriate support from government were indispensible to reducing stress faced by parents of autistic children. Ms Ho also said that nowadays there were different approaches for treating autism, and one of the most effective approaches was Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Children with ASD are given intensive and consistent 1-on-1 ABA treatment, which is effective in improving children's social skills, language & communication, cognitive function, emotional and behavioral management skills. With better self-care abilities, their parents's stress about their future life can be reduced."

The survey also found that over 40% interviewees had the expense on their children's treatment accounting for 26%-50% of their monthly household income, while about one fourth had the expense on their children's treatment accounting for more than half of their monthly household income. To relieve the financial burden of low-income families with autistic children, APF is providing a series of free supporting services this year, which include one-month intensive ABA treatment, parents' talks and training sessions and marriage and family treatment. APF is also organizing free talks for local schools to increase their understanding of autism.

Autism Partnership Foundation (APF) invited parents with autistic children to share their stress and psychological experts to give suggestions to alleviate parental stress

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About AP Foundation (APF)
Autism Partnership Foundation (APF), a registered charity body (qualified for the exemption from tax section 88 of the Inland Revenue) in Hong Kong, is committed to making a difference in the life of individuals with autism. Through various fundraising initiatives, APF aims to raise funds to generate public awareness and knowledge about autism. We will also advocate ABA treatment and intervention through community programs of education and research and provide support and help for children with ASD and their families in Asia. Find out more about APF, please see: www.apf.org.hk or Facebook/APFHongKong

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For enquiries, please contact:
Autism Partnership Foundation
Ms Suzanne Tang
Tel: 2174 6812