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Principal defends rejecting autistic boy (3)

By Huang Yuli in Shenzhen (China Daily)

08:21, September 21, 2012

Schools seek answers

Liao Yanhui, secretary-general of the Shenzhen Autism Society and mother to a 17-year-old autistic boy, said she feels education authorities are failing to support such youngsters.

"The problem is not whether to go to a special school or regular school, or whether the child is slightly or severely autistic —it's the right of all children to attend a regular school," she said. "The problem is, there isn't a support system to assist autistic students in class."

She said mentally disabled children who have successfully integrated in regular classrooms all have social workers or special-education teachers with them in class, who are paid for by the parents —at a price of 4,000 to 5,000 yuan ($634 to $793) a month — which she believes should be covered by education departments.

However, You Xiaoyang, principal of the private Shenzhen Bolin School for autistic children, argued against sending autistic children to regular schools, as it is "neither good for the child nor society".

Autistic children do not have social discipline, he said, so their parents must help them build social consciousness and make sure they follow the rules of society before they can study at a regular school.

"The thing is how to educate autistic children, not how to accept them," he added.

Cheng, of the Bao'an education bureau, said officials are discussing measures to help students with mental and physical disabilities to more easily attend regular schools, such as recruiting specialized teachers and social workers.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education is planning to hold a seminar on the topic. Delegates will likely discuss a proposal by the One Foundation, an NGO founded by film star Jet Li, to protect the rights of autistic children in education with a new law and special funds.

The foundation has invested 22 million yuan in its Ocean Heaven program, which aims to support the education of children with autism, brain paralysis and rare diseases. It has set up 114 private autism recovery centers and schools.

It also funded a study by the Shenzhen Autism Society that discovered autism organizations lack funding and staff.

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