Autistic children: You're not alone

08:36, June 01, 2010      

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An autistic child watches a movie at Mo Box Books shop in Beijing, May 30, 2010. [Photo/Xinhua]
In an outdoor gym class in Beijing, parents are holding their young ones' arms helping them follow the teacher's moves. None of the autistic kids are focusing on the teacher as they move awkwardly -- gently pulled this way and that by their parents.

In this nursery mainly for autistic children, parents accompany their kids all day long. Autism is a neural disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and repetitive behavior.

The nursery belongs to the public-funded Beijing Chaoyang Anhua Intelligence Training School, where about one third of the 165 students suffer from autism.

Since there are no public schools specifically for autistic children, these kids are taught together with others who are mentally challenged.

When the kids are taking a nap at noon, Liu Jianhua, a 40-year-old father, is wiping his son's classroom floor and tidying up the toys. He volunteers his work. He takes turns with his wife to look after his son.

"Now I'm pleased to see that my boy wants to hug his Daddy occasionally, but before attending the school he treated me just like another person," he says. His 5-year-old boy, Liu Shuai, doesn' t talk and needs to be looked after all day long.

Generally, unlike normal kids, autistic children seem emotionally detached from their parents, never showing intimacy.

However, this doesn't make Liu Jianhua love his son any less. "What really worries me is my boy's future, especially when his mother and I are not with him anymore. Who will look after him?" says Liu.

Another parent Zhong Xueping says outside the classroom, "I dare not even think about it." In the classroom, his 4-year-old boy Zhong Chuangli is waving his right hand, unaware of what the teacher is doing.

Zhong Xueping says he has no idea if the training will help his boy, all he can do is give his boy the best he can afford -- a huge financial burden for him.

Anhua's tuition fee is 1,500 yuan (US$ 219) a month, roughly half the average salary in Beijing in 2009. Tuition fees at privately run schools can be double or triple that.

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