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Opening up on autism (3)

By  Liu Zhihua and Nick Compton  (China Daily)

08:13, April 03, 2013

Beijing's Kangnazhou aims to provide care and life skill trainings to autistic youngsters. The training courses include baking and basic computer skill.

"People used to be ignorant of the disease," Fang recalls. "Most people blamed the parents for their children's autism."

Many thought autistic children became that way because their parents spoiled or abused them, or because they did something indecent and fate worked its course. Parents of autistic children were afraid to take them out in public because of the stigma.

Now, with easy Internet access, and the effort by the government and autism community to spread autism-related knowledge, more and more people know about the disorder.

But there is some concern about the number of privately run autism institutes in China.

Jia Meixiang, one of the most reputable experts in autism diagnosis and intervention in China, says government should be the prime service-provider to autistic people, not society.

Many private institutes lack sufficient resources and expertise, and may end up doing more harm than good. Besides, with parents willing to pay any cost for their children, this is also fertile ground for fraud, Jia notes.

She fells that the government should at least establish strict admission criteria for service providers, and enforce standards on fees, if it cannot provide the service through a public system, Jia says.

It is hoped that the recently launched national survey will help form the foundation of a national database, and enable the government to better support the autistic population, according to Wang Yi, the director of the survey.

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