Experts told Lusa that the futures of children with special needs would be “significantly” affected if lockdowns were imposed whenever Macau recorded a COVID-19 outbreak.

Lam, 12, has an autism spectrum disorder. Over the last two and a half years, this local youth who attends a special education school has been interrupting classes and support sessions to continue learning at home in front of a computer for long hours away.

Contact with school spaces and qualified therapists, a necessary routine for the development of children with special needs, has been disrupted due to the emergence of COVID-19.

At the end of January 2020, Lam had been absent from classes for three months and had been in distance learning for another three months. In September of the following year, the facility was ordered to close after two new infections.

Macau has adopted a partial lockdown. In the latest pandemic outbreak, 1,821 people were infected, most of them asymptomatic, and six died. All were elderly with chronic illnesses.

Like mainland China, the city has followed a “dynamiczero COVID” policy, imposed restrictions on population movements and conducted several rounds of mass testing. For Lam, that meant finishing the school year four weeks early.

“Everything stopped, school stopped, [therapy] The center was closed and we attended some classes organized by the association, but they weren’t professional,” his mother, Ruby Hui, told Lusa. Teachers and therapists had to fulfill their responsibilities so that there was “no setback” in

Despite the assumption that “no face-to-face” [professional] Follow-up, progress is difficult.” For children with special needs, MsHui believes the situation may have more serious implications for younger children.

Lam is 12 years old and has already passed the stage where she needs more quality help, explains Ruby Hui. Still in short supply in Macau.

Due to the quarantine imposed on people traveling between Macau and Hong Kong, professional consultations from neighboring areas, or to Macau, have not returned to normal. In July 2020, about the shortage of speech pathologists in Macau, he hired a specialist from Hong Kong to “alleviate the shortage” and was unable to go to Macau.

Two years have passed and little has changed. A person arriving in Macau from Hong Kong will have to undergo a seven-day quarantine at a local hotel.

The Association for Promoting Special Education for Students with Special Education Needs encourages local governments to look to mainland China for the treatment or acquisition of assistive devices such as wheelchairs and walkers for children with physical disabilities. I suggested turning

The association’s vice-president, Alex Chao, told Lusa that he had received no response from the government about the device “not being produced in Macau and having a very high cost.”

“Children go through rapid physical development in early childhood, and not having the best therapeutic equipment at this time[…]will have a huge impact on their physical health problems,” emphasizes MrChao. .

Alex Chao also draws attention to the possible consequences for homebound children with special needs.

For example, during this latest outbreak, residents were advised to stay home and parks and other public spaces were closed. And these children “need community activity and human contact to communicate and progress,” Chao explains.

Additionally, the lockdown has emphasized children’s connection to screens, whether in leisure classes or distance learning, added Joana Pereira, an elementary school teacher at the Portuguese Language School (EPM) in Macau. .

“Wear provides a situation that forces us to spend even more time clinging to this kind of electronic device, which I find very debilitating in terms of personal and social development. ‘ says the Portuguese teacher. Training and experience in the field of special education.

Recently, Health Department Director Alvis Law admitted at a press conference that “new outbreaks may occur in the future,” and authorities may impose restrictions on movement again.

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