Ada Lee Hoi-yee
In MTR, 12-year-old Kristy Leung See-ching was standing in the crowded compartment on her way to Tsim Sha Tsui with her mother. Suddenly she wanted to sit down, and her mother told her to wait for a while as there were no seats available.
“Please let me have a seat,” she insisted, and then stared at the people who were sitting. A woman therefore got up and gave Kristy her seat.
On the way, she hit people twice. Once she wished to hold the handrai, she hit the hand of the person who was holding it and the other time she hit the passenger at the seat behind her.
These scenarios might be rare for most people, but they are fairly usual for Mrs Leung, mother of this unusual child.
Kristy is autistic. However, unlike other autistic kids, she speaks a lot and does not avoid eye contact.
Symptoms of autism usually appear in the first three years of life, according to the Autism Society of America, but Mrs Leung did not know Kristy is autistic until she was five.
She said since Kristy has a lot of eye contact with people and is mildly mentally challenged that she suffers delay development in many aspects, she was unaware of her special conditions, such as unusual grumpiness and rare obsessions, one of which is zipping up bags for people, including strangers.
When she first saw me, the first thing she looked at was not my face, but my unzipped backpack. “Your bag was not probably zipped,” she said to me, with her hand on the zipper pulls immediately.
Mrs Leung said sometimes when Kristy does that for strangers she gets scolded. “She will apologise but that cannot stop her from zipping up for others,” she said.
Apart from zipping, Kristy is also very obsessed in tying up schoolbag straps.
Right on the arrival at YMCA, Tsim Sha Tsui, where Kristy takes rock-climbing classes, she grabbed the schoolbag of her friend and tied the two shoulder straps together. Once, she secretly tied up the straps of all the schoolbags on the bag shelf and created chaos, Mrs Leung said.
Autistic children are usually easily agitated. They often have difficulties in social interaction and language. And among all the characteristics, being emotional is even more obvious in an autistic child in adolescence.
Kristy was suddenly irritated when she arrived at the lifts in YMCA, and it got worse when Mrs Leung refused to let her enter the lift because of her grumpy behaviour. She then convinced Kristy to climb the stairs instead, but she kept yelling about the long walk and her heavy schoolbag, then spitted on the floor.
Mrs Leung said she spits a lot at home when she wants to express her negative emotions.
“Because she knows I don’t like it,” she said.
Mrs Leung has been trying to discover her daughter’s interests by enrolling her in different extracurricular courses. Kristy has tried horse riding and swimming, and now learning rock-climbing. But none of them seems interesting enough for Kristy.
But one thing Mrs Leung has recently noticed is that Kristy seems very interested in talking to Westerners. On the MTR, when she saw a group of Western kids get off the train, she said good-bye to them, and when she saw a Western woman, she greeted her, asked the woman’s name and introduced herself.
Now Mrs Leung is looking for a Westerner who can teach Kristy English conversation. But she said a Westerner willing to teach Kristy is not so easy to find, and Kristy does not want an English-speaking Chinese.
During the one-hour rock-climbing course, Kristy tried for four times and reached the top of the wall in three of them. Mrs Leung said this was “a breakthrough” .
When I asked Kristy whether she likes rock climbing, she answered, “sometimes.”
At the end of the day, Kristy has zipped up my bag, offered to tie my backpack straps and asked if I could speak English to her. She even asked me to visit her home after her rock-climbing course.
“She likes to interact with adults, perhaps because she doesn’t know how to interact properly with kids of her age,” Mrs Leung said.
“It’s blood and tears to raise them up, but of course, there’re laughters,” a mother of another autistic kid said during the rock-climbing course, “they may not be the most bright ones to serve the society, but at least, they do no harm.”
Edited by Weekend Zhou Mo