Across China: Giving autistic patients life skills, guidance
GUIYANG, April 17 (Xinhua) -- Huang Zhuan, a special-education teacher, finds nothing more pleasing than positive behavioral changes in her students.
Huang, 28, graduated with a major in special education from Anshun University, southwest China's Guizhou Province, and has worked for over five years at the Caring Home Special Education Rehabilitation Training Center, which is non-profit, in the provincial capital of Guiyang.
Huang still remembers a pair of autistic twins among the first batch of students she taught. Even accompanied by their mother, the brothers still spat and took off their shoes during class, she recalled.
After two years of training, the elder brother recovered and received a standard education in the kindergarten, while the younger one is receiving training in the development of life skills.
The two children still keep in touch with Huang via telephone. "I'm proud and pleased to see that what I learnt has helped people in need," said Huang.
Autism in China has an incidence rate of 0.7 percent, and more than 2 million children under the age of 12 are autistic. The figure is rising by about 200,000 each year, according to a report released in 2019.
"As a result of intellectual disabilities, it's difficult for severely autistic children to find a proper school to attend. To avail them of schooling, we decided to recruit professional teachers and administrative staff," said Zhao Xinling, 62, who worked in the municipal finance bureau before establishing the training center in 2003.
"It's just like planting a tree. Even if we are absent, it will protect the children from the wind and rain," said Zhao, who is the mother of an autistic patient.
According to the Guizhou Disabled Persons' Federation, the number of rehabilitation agencies for autistic patients increased to 70 in 2021, compared to 28 in 2014. The number of autistic children undergoing rehabilitation treatment amounted to 2,400 in 2021, while it was just 280 in 2014.
Huang Xi is also the mother of an autistic patient. When her daughter was aged four, it became clear that the little girl did not know how to have fun with her peers and showed no love for family members. Huang Xi took her to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with autism.
Huang Xi explained that, although some autistic patients had grown into adults following training, they still lack social skills and some cannot pronounce words clearly. Thus, their family members prefer to call them "kids."
In 2016, seeing that some kids had grown up and had no place to go, Huang Xi and Zhao decided to organize an autism rehabilitation center for them. Named Guiyang Huiling, it provides rehabilitation and round-the-clock care for autistic patients aged between 16 and 59.
The rehabilitation center is equipped with an employment assistance station, a day-care center and a rehabilitation exercise room. There are a total of 56 autistic "children" there, with the eldest aged 45.
All autistic patients sent to the center receive evaluations of their condition before training begins. They are taught to buy ingredients and cook meals, make handicrafts, play musical instruments and so on.
To take care of this special group, Huang Xi and other teaching staff often gather together and discuss the emotional and behavioral changes of certain children after class.
"If marks appear on their body, we need to find out whether they are allergic to something or had a fight with another person," said Huang Xi, adding that, since autistic children cannot express themselves clearly, any changes deserve attention.
Huang Xi is pleased that about 25 percent of autistic children sent to the center go on to live normal lives and join mainstream society after recovery. Her autistic daughter has mastered the skills required to cook and do the laundry.
Since 2020, volunteers from a handicrafts workshop in Guiyang have been visiting the rehabilitation center and teaching the "kids" manual skills such as batik and flower-making. "The workshop is responsible for selling their hand-made products online and offline, and in the process, informing more people about the special group," said Huang Xi, adding that the "kids" can also receive payment from their handicraft practice.
"These days, the center mainly accommodates grown-up autistic patients. We hope to provide life-long company for these 'children,'" said Huang Xi. "We also hope that, after long-term social training, our children can earn a decent living and gain some respect."