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HK Plan to Aid Mentally Disabled in Love, Life
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When Ho Fung sat down recently to talk with his girlfriend, his thoughts were fixed on the future matters of love, marriage and family chief among them.

"We haven't made plans for getting married just yet since we aren't financially stable," said Ho Fung, 17. "We have similar personalities and have a great time together. We plan to live together in the future."

Dating, sex and marriage can be complicated issues even in the best of circumstances, which is one of the reasons Ho-fung and his girlfriend, both of whom suffer from intellectual disabilities, have been taking part in a sex-education and group discussion program at the Yau Chong Home, an assisted-living residence for people in their condition.

The program is part of an effort by Hong Kong's Family Planning Association (FPA) to help people with intellectual disabilities steer their way past the many pitfalls associated with romance and relationships.

Sex Education Materials

The FPA published the special administrative region's first-ever sex education material for people with intellectual disabilities last month. Revolving around the themes of dating, marriage and sex, the materials offer advice on social interaction, relationships, preparing for marriage and facts about sexual intercourse.

Keeley Chan, an official from the FPA's Education Division, said the move comes in response to a rising need for sex education for the intellectually disabled, whose passion and desire for love and to be loved are sometimes overlooked.

The intellectually disabled have the same physical and emotional needs as anyone else, and it would be wrong to suppress their pent-up desires, said Chan.

With the right guidance and access to sex education, the intellectually disabled can lead fulfilling married lives, Chan said.

The FPA's educational package includes textbooks, CD-ROMs, illustrated cards and posters of the human body. The materials are available at the FPA library, and are distributed to groups that work with the intellectually impaired, Chan said.

Help in Need

Ho Wing-yi, a psychiatrist at the Fu Hong Society, an organization that provides housing to the handicapped, lauded the program, saying that the intellectually disabled needed help to better understand the responsibilities inherent in marriages and relationships.

Ho said guidance from social workers would help such couples develop stable relationships. The materials are also intended to help the parents of the mentally disabled.

Parents sometimes need help learning to accept that their children experience sexual desire just like anyone else, and they should discuss issues like love and relationship freely and openly, Ho added.

Lai Hung-shing, a service unit manager at the Yau Chong Home, which is operated by the Fu Hong Society, emphasized the need to break taboos by increasing his communication with his clients and explaining both the responsibility of marriage and the problems they might face as a couple.

Marriage between two mentally challenged people can be a blessing if both understand the significance of their union, are independent and can rely on family support, said Lai.

Cheng Dai, 34, and her boyfriend of eight years are ready for the challenge and plan to marry soon. With the support from both families, the couple will stay with the groom's uncle after they have tied the knot in order to minimize their living expenses.

(China Daily January 24, 2007)

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