Chinese organization offers hope to families struggling with autism

Brian Field


China. Autism. These are two terms seldom heard together. While China’s influence on the world is wide spread, and is fast increasing its sizable power not only in manufacturing but technology and adoption of Western practices, the world’s most populated nation has been relatively quiet when it comes to autism.

The rates of autism in China are less specifically measured than in many countries as official recognition of autism is relatively new, only becoming officially diagnosed in China in the 1980s. The WHO puts the number of autistic children in China at around 600,000 to 1.8 million, but due to under-reporting and recentcy of acknowledging autism in the country that number is argued by others to be more in the range of 1.5 to 7.8 million – not including those adults who may have autism.

Like many of its less developed neighbors, disabilities both physical and neurological are often hidden away and seen as “a family’s problem” to deal with, but little more. Supportive services are few.

For those families that have children with autism, the combined lack of community awareness and available services can be devastating. Schools will often refuse to accept those with more severe autism, and parents are left with the daunting prospects of how to care for their child and – more specifically – face the prospects of what might become of their child when grown to adulthood after they are gone. Some families go so far as to commit family suicide rather than to face that future burden.

While the number of trained professionals to service those with autism is still significantly limited –nationally there are only 20 professionals qualified to conduct official diagnosis – the landscape for autism treatment fortunately is growing, if only in small ways. Beijing Stars and Rain is China's first non-governmental educational organization dedicated to serving children with autism. Founded in 1993 by Tian Huiping, a mother of an autistic boy, the school is a grassroots educational institute providing special education for families of autistic children. It annually conducts four 12-week education and training programs for both children and parents from throughout China. The school has helped more than 6,000 autistic children and their families from across the country and has won support from an army of volunteers from around the world. Stars and Rain has also recently opened a small group home for teens.

Local neighborhood reception to the facility has not always been inviting. Tian noted that the school had moved four times because of some neighbors' hostilities. Many local residents thought these "odd" children were "insane and dangerous", says Tian.

While autism therapy’s successes are most often measured in terms of years, not mere weeks, Stars and Rain focuses on Applied Behavior Analysis therapy (ABA), and teaching the fundamentals of this therapy with the child’s parents who can then continue working with their child long after the initial program is complete.

Stars and Rain’s mission at times can seem overly daunting when the need is so significant, and so unanswered. Nonetheless, they continue their commitment helping and training each family as they can, providing hope where there previously was none.

You can make a donation directly to Stars and Rain a self-funding NGO. All donations will be administered by them.

For further information on donations please contact Mr. Sun Zhong Kai at Stars and Rain who will be happy to answer any of your questions in English or Chinese.

Tel . : 0086 10 853 732 36
Fax : 0086-10-853 734 86
E-mail: sunzk@autismchina.org

To view a short trailer based upon this program see below.


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