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Sunday, 16 November 2014

Machines allow school to feed the potential of physically disabled

The only part of Lung Kin's limbs that can move with reasonable dexterity is the big toe on his left foot.

A 19-year-old student with severe disability due to cerebral palsy, Lung Kin relies on that extremity alone to control a joypad on his electric wheelchair to get around.

At Hong Kong Red Cross Margaret Trench School in Wong Tai Sin, he made his entrance slowly into the classroom and caught sight of an electric feeding device.

Physical disabilities notwithstanding, Lung Kin's large eyes widened and his lips formed a big smile at the thought of being able to eat on his own at long last.

Principal Lee Cheuk-hong, a Red Cross veteran of 34 years, said: "We had hoped for this machine for many years, but did not have the money to acquire it because it fell outside the [government] standard equipment list.

"The need has become more urgent as these students are now in the senior forms and we need to build up their self-confidence before they move on in their life. Obviously, spoon-feeding would not boost their esteem as they cannot perform even the very basic act of feeding themselves."

Now, with donations from Operation Santa Claus - an annual fundraising event organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK - the school is to get four of the UK-made machines, each priced at HK$72,000.

These will offer Lung Kin and his three schoolmates meal experiences they have never had before.

Margaret Trench, one of the Red Cross' three schools for the physically disabled, takes in those in the severe category. More than 90 per cent of its 100 primary and secondary pupils have learning difficulties as well.

"We are working very hard to train our pupils to overcome physical limitations and develop their potential," occupational therapist Florence Ng Lai-fong said. "But they can do it only up to a certain point, beyond which assistive devices have to come in."

Students with cerebral palsy, such as Lung Kin, have limited control of their arms and legs, but also the intellect to cope with life - and hope for the better.

"They display a good level of intellectual capability to appreciate self-dependence," Ng said. "When it comes to eating, they'd rather do it themselves and would feel upset if they can't."

Nothing said it better than Lung Kin's reaction to the feeding device, which was loaned from another school for the interview.

"I want to have a chicken drumstick with this device," said Lung Kin, a name he preferred to be called. "It's Kin for health, so Lung Kin means 'healthy dragon'," he laughed.

The youngster was keen to live with dignity. "Eating aside, I hope to wash my own face and turn on the music of Leslie Cheung, too," he added, still laughing.

Source : South China Morning Post , 15th Nov 2014

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