China Focus: Visit to Beijing school reveals hardships of autism education

09:06, April 02, 2011      

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When 17-year-old Xie Yang has to respond to a question, he avoids eye contact and needs to be prompted two or three times before he answers.

"What's your favorite subject at school?" asks his teacher. Xie pauses. The teacher repeats the question. "Physical education," he replies, moving restlessly and looking uneasy.

Xie is afflicted by autism, a pervasive neurological developmental disorder that affects social and communication skills as well as motor and language abilities.

He is not fluent in speech and slow to react. Yet, he is the best student at Anhua School, the only public rehabilitation school for the mentally challenged in Chaoyang District, Beijing.

"He takes a bus home by himself and knows where to get off, he's interactive, and more importantly, he displays stronger self-control than his autistic classmates," said Fan Xiaojie, the school teacher.

Xie is among tens of thousands of children in Beijing who suffer from autism. Official figures for the numbers with the disorder in the city are not available.

The number could range from one in 150 to one in 500, Feng Lanyun, a doctor who's been treating autistic children since 2000, cited latest research results from the United States and Hong Kong.

No two sufferers of autism display the same symptoms, but they share a lack of social and self-help skills.

Chinese parents desperately want to improve their autistic children's survival skills through medication and education, fearful the disorder will leave their kids helpless once older family members are gone.

Autism cannot be cured and experts suggest improving autistic children's life skills through early detection and subsequent special training.

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Source: Xinhua
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