Where to find support organisations in Hong Kong for kids with special needs and their parents.
It takes a village to raise a child. When it comes to kids with special needs, this saying is truer than ever. Every bit of help can greatly benefit not only the child, but also the parents. Thankfully, in Hong Kong, the resources made available by the local government (see www.sen.org.hk) and the number of qualified professionals is gradually increasing. Within the community itself, some support groups are also becoming more organised and trying to leverage each other’s knowledge, despite the diversity in special needs.
While every condition and child can be different, in general, any child who needs extra help or an adapted learning environment is considered as having Special Educational Needs (SEN). These requirements can be related to physical, medical, emotional or intellectual abilities. We’ve listed some of the most recognised government-operated (or assisted) and community-led support centres that help special needs children of different ages and abilities. They also help parents to become better informed and assist them with some of their daily challenges. If you are unsure about whether your child has special educational needs, where to get an assessment, etc., a good place to start is this Social Resources Guide. Once you have a fair idea of what your child needs, it will be easier to start working towards it.
With a mission to empower parents to make informed decisions about their children’s development and wellbeing, Special Needs Network Hong Kong (SNNHK) organises workshops, professional talks and social events for parents and caregivers of children with special needs. Created in 2002 and coordinated by a group of parent-volunteers, the network today connects over 400 members with children of different diagnoses. Parents are able to share information about early intervention, schooling, health, therapies, available resources and have interactive discussions. Regular coffee mornings and evening get-togethers are organised, where parents of children with special needs can find information, empathy and support.
A highly recognised centre in Hong Kong that was first established in the 80s, Watchdog Early Education Centre provides therapy, training and education programmes for children with special needs. The facilities include sensory rooms, playgrounds, outdoor areas and classrooms where parents are able to observe the classes and work together with teachers to develop an individual educational programme (IEP) for their child. With a focus on preparing children for early entry into the regular school system, the curriculum covers numeracy, literacy, educational games and occupational therapy. Additionally, every child has access to speech and music therapy as regular components of intervention.
Watchdog operates separate English and Cantonese speaking programmes for kids with Global Developmental Delay, Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as well as a variety of learning difficulties and physical disabilities. It is the only NGO that offers English-speaking On-site Pre-school Rehabilitation Services (OPRS), where the centre’s therapists and educators can come and teach kids with special needs at different international kindergartens around Hong Kong. It also runs a number of parental training and support meetings.
Age: 0 to 6 years
Watchdog Hong Kong Centre, G/F, 12 Borrett Road, Central, Hong Kong, 2521 7364, [email protected]
Watchdog Jordan Centre, 4 Jordan Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong, 2377 9666, [email protected], www.watchdog.org.hk
An equally well-established centre for kids with special needs that was founded in the early 80s, the Child Development Centre (CDC) focuses on child-centred teaching and early intervention. It provides a variety of learning experiences catered to each kid’s individual need. From baby clinics to pre-school groups, children are assessed and guided through therapeutic interventions and specific programmes such as Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) and Sensory Groups. Parents can enrol their children in various programmes including phonics, numeracy, therapeutic listening in addition to the standard curriculum. CDC also offers child assessments and private consultations for parents.
Age: 0 to 6 years
Jockey Club Sarah Roe School is part of the English Schools Foundation (ESF), the largest network of English-medium international schools in Hong Kong. It started with only six students in 1986 and was named after a local Occupational Therapist. The current building was funded by the Hong Kong Jockey Club. The school thrives to bring out the best in every child by embracing individuality. With a specialised team of teachers, therapists and support staff, the school delivers a curriculum with a strong focus on literacy and numeracy. The campus facilities allow for the practice of personalised training where students are able to receive hydro and music therapies, vocational training and develop independent living skills. The JCSRS facilities are also available for rent by friends of the school and the larger community.
Age: 5 to 19 years
Jockey Club Sarah Roe School, 2B Tin Kwong Road, Ho Man Tin, Kowloon, Hong Kong, 2761 9893, www.jcsrs.edu.hk
Having just celebrated its 25th anniversary, The Nesbitt Centre continues to create an inclusive, energetic and empathetic environment where young adults can learn to reduce dependence and increase self-esteem. The centre caters for a wide variety of needs including physical and intellectual disabilities. Learners are trained to develop a range of skills that start from sensory-based to social and communication skills. The Preparation for Life Programme includes instructions on self-care, how to live independently and prepare for job interviews. Connected to three social enterprises – Cafe 8 at The Hong Kong Maritime Museum, The Nest at St John’s Cathedral in Central and St Andrew’s Church in Jordan – the Nesbitt Centre’s goal is for its learners to acquire working experience and develop the confidence to serve in the community.
This long-time Hong Kong institution was established in 1956. It provides specialist services, including physiotherapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy, to child patients throughout Hong Kong. It also provides treatment, rehabilitative services and accommodation to adult orthopaedic patients, especially those with spinal problems. It has an excellent reputation in the management of spinal deformities (in children and adults) worldwide.
Established in 1963, Heep Hong Society is dedicated to developing evidence-based approaches and promoting the development of the integrated education and rehabilitation sectors. It offers professional assessment, guidance, training and family support to more than 15,000 families every year. Its 1,000-strong team is spread out over 50 service units, which include Early Education and Training Centres, Special Child Care Centres, Supportive Learning Project offices, Support Centre for Persons with Autism, as well as mainstream kindergartens, primary and secondary schools.
Hong Kong has plenty of schools to help children with a wide range of physical, mental and social impairments. The Hong Kong Down Syndrome Association, Hong Kong Society for the Deaf, Hong Chi Association, Ebenezer School & Home for the Visually Impaired and The Hong Kong Society for the Blind are all well-reputed organisations in their fields. Whether you’re looking for support for a child with Down’s Syndrome, blindness, deafness or autism, it’s always imperative to reach out to the right network of people who will form your village. The SNNHK has a useful guide to resources including specialist schools and car hire for those with severe physical challenges.
Featured image courtesy of Getty Images, image 1 courtesy of SNNHK via Instagram, image 2 courtesy of Watchdog via Facebook, image 3 courtesy of CDC via Instagram, image 4 courtesy of JCSRS, image 5 courtesy of the Nesbitt Centre, image 6 courtesy of aldineiderios via Pixabay, image 7 courtesy of Heep Hong Society via Facebook, image 8 courtesy of AbsolutVision via Unsplash.