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Parents can have special needs too

A 60-year-old father of an autistic teenager chopped his son to death after he fought with his schoolmates in June 2014. The father was sentenced to four years imprisonment on August 11 after admitting to voluntary manslaughter.

His brutal and uncontrolled response to pressure highlights the high incidence rate of deep depression suffered by parents or the carers of such children, which is often ignored by others, even the parents themselves.

While the father has no right to deprive his son of his life, he did not show any intention of hurting him before the tragic event. He was reportedly a loving father, taking his son for a walk every night. 

At the time of the killing, he was depressed over the boy’s aggressive behaviour, only seeing him as a heavy burden on the family. His depression finally snapped his control.

The fight the 15-year-old boy was involved in at his special school can be considered a single behavioural problem, but it was enough to trigger an explosion of the pressure his father was under, which had probably been building since his son was a young child.

Parents of autistic children face great pressure as they continually need to follow up problem after problem with their children in communication, behaviour, muscle strength, self-care, hyper-activity and other areas.

Compared with the needs of what we call normal children, the effort involved in training autistic and mentally-challenged children is way more than double. 

Some autistic children also suffer from hyperactivity (Attention-Deficit Disorder or ADHD). Those who take care of them need to pay constant attention to their restlessness for fear of mishap, which is also a source of continuous stress to both their mind and body. Many carers tend to forget to take care of themselves.

What is worrying is that many such parents may appear calm despite the pressure and seem capable of handling the situation.

What they may need are a parent support group or professional counselling as an outlet for their pressure, which special schools and many non-government organ-isations, like Caritas, offer. 

However, the problem is that parents of special children may need to be aware of their own psychological problems and the need to seek help first. And it is especially hard for men or fathers to share the deep frustration within themselves.  

They also need to take the initiative or to find time to join such groups. But some of them, even though they feel the great pressure, prefer to sleep it out due to their constant fatigue. 

It is too late when the underlying pressure, triggered by a serious incident, explodes, and they do something impulsively that they will regret for the rest of their lives, like hurting their own children.

Their psychological problems may wait for the people around them to notice. What is sad is that Hong Kong is a busy city where people, even family, tend to focus on their own schedules. 

Although many parents do cope with such pressure well, being a parent or carer of children with special needs requires a high level of perseverance regardless of repeated failure, constant fatigue or the judgement of others.

It can hardly be done without the support of family, the community, professional help and, above all, hope and faith in God. 


                            • Painter MOS