Fri, Dec 22, 2006 - Page 2 News List

`Delayed' kids need more help, group says

By Max Hirsch  /  STAFF REPORTER

When Tsung Ching-i (宗景宜), executive director of the Syin-lu Welfare Foundation, gave birth to her severely mentally handicapped child 30 years ago, she had no clue how hard it would be to raise such a child.

"At three years old, my son still couldn't feed himself. Every meal was like going to war. And there was nowhere to turn for my family -- no special services, no therapy, very few social resources to help us cope," she said.

As the head of a non-government organization (NGO) that helps families with physically and mentally challenged children, Tsung said the situation today is better, but much work remains to be done, especially for poor families in the countryside.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Taiwan Fund for Children and Families, a similar NGO, 37 percent of children aged six years or younger from financially disadvantaged families are developmentally delayed in terms of language and interpersonal skills.

Such toddlers are concentrated in far-flung, rural communities where educational, medical and social resources are scant, NGO representatives said.

The Taiwan Fund for Children and Families hosted a press conference yesterday to announce its survey of 307 disadvantaged children nationwide, saying that the high percentage of delayed children among those polled indicated that the government needed to focus on channeling more resources to rural youth.

"Medical and intelligence screening for toddlers isn't happening in the countryside, so we're missing a crucial window of opportunity to diagnose children and get them help while they're most receptive to such help," said Cheng Li-chen (鄭麗珍), a professor in the Department of Social Work at National Taiwan University.

Many poor, rural families were far removed from hospitals and social services, and this prevented them from gaining access to much-needed medical and social resources, she added.

"We need more medical and social workers making house calls to disadvantaged families to ensure that developmentally delayed children get diagnosed and helped at an early stage," she said.

Taiwan Fund for Children and Families deputy executive director Betty Ho (何素秋) said that her foundation already sends volunteers out to disadvantaged rural families on a regular basis to distribute supplies and provide medical and social services.

"But we certainly need more financial help from the government," she said, adding that 60 percent of the families that receive help from the foundation are single parent families.

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