By Kristen Mcavoy
China.org.cn, June 21, 2012
The China Charities Aid Foundation for Children (CCAFC) Sino-U.S. Seminar of Autism Rehabilitation & Education kicked off Wednesday at Beijing Normal University and will last through June 24. The seminar aims to raise autism awareness and education in China.
The seminar is sponsored by CCAFC, organized by the Beijing Stars & Rain Education Institute for Autism, and the venue was provided by the China Philanthropy Research Institute. Employees from the Heartspring School and the Beijing Stars & Rain Education Institute for Autism are teaching the seminar.
In 1993, having been raising an autistic son on her own, Tian Huiping (Hope) founded Beijing Stars & Rain Education Institute for Autism, the first non-profit organization for autism in China. Since then, this organization has helped thousands of Chinese parents to develop skills to raise autistic children and to cope with the realities associated with having a child with autism.
For the past four years, the Heartspring School of Wichita, Kan., has collaborated with the Beijing Stars & Rain Education Institute for Autism to teach this seminar. Heartspring School was founded in 1934 with the goal of raising the functional independence of its students.
Over 200 parents, caregivers and teachers who have autistic children were at the conference to learn about autism and about the different strategies available for teaching autistic children.
According to Tian, autism is seldom diagnosed in China due to the general public's lack of education on the problem and their minimal acknowledgment of it. There are thought to be approximately 500,000 children with autism in China, according to the website of the Beijing Stars & Rain Education Institute for Autism.
Megan Swett, a Heartspring School Psychologist/Behavior Specialist, said: "That number changes all the time, it just keeps increasing as people have resources to identify kids with autism."
In addition to its school which accommodates 55 students, Heartspring has a number of international partnerships and training programs that educate people on autism in Asia, Africa, India and the U.S.
"Each child with autism is different but the characteristics that they display can be similar, so the research focuses on those characteristics, so those can be generalized to other kids in other countries," said Swett. After citizens are educated, they can implement the programs in the best way they can with the resources available to them, she said.
The Beijing Stars & Rain Education Institute for Autism website defines autism as "a life-long non-progressive developmental disability that severely impairs the way sensory input is assimilated, causing problems in social behavior, communication and learning ability and hindering the establishment of normal social and parent-child relationships."
Peggy Lawrence, a Heartspring autism and instructional support specialist said that there is no real cause for autism, and that it is also four times more likely in boys than in girls. She also made it clear that there is no cure.
"There is no cure, like we said, and if the research or the evidence of the program that you are looking at says that it can cure autism then there is something wrong with that," said Swett.
Tian explained that a lot of autistic children are kicked out of school in China because the teachers are not equipped with the resources or the training to teach them. The parents are then stuck with not only caring for their child, but for educating them, she said.
The purpose of the seminar is to help change this reality at a grassroots level, and to give parents the skills and resources they need.
Dr. Gary W. Singleton, Chief Executive Officer of Heartspring, said: "When people ask us why we do this, we say: We believe that every child can learn, and we believe every child deserves a chance in the world."
For more information:
The Beijing Stars & Rain Education Institute for Autism -http://www.guduzh.org.cn/tabid/159/language/en-US/Default.aspx
Heartspring School - http://www.heartspring.org/