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Boy finds voice in music

By Cheng Yingqi (China Daily)

15:42, May 08, 2012

Lin Yancheng watches as her 13-year-old son Samuel plays the piano in their Beijing home. (Provided to China Daily)

BEIJING, May 8 (Xinhuanet) -- Thirteen-year-old Samuel held his best friends, two teddy bears, in his arms.

He looked a little excited about his first trip to China, and kept giggling in the minibus speeding down the country road in a Beijing suburb.

When the giggling turned into shrieks, his mother Lin Yansheng stopped him immediately.

"Samuel, do you still want to perform?"

"Yes."

"Then what?"

"Quiet," said the boy, looking down at the teddy bears without any other words.

For the past 13 years in the United States, as a mother with an autistic child, Lin is used to this kind of conversation.

"Samuel just won't be good for any period of time unless he is playing some musical instrument," Lin said.

Despite the special efforts required, her son learned to play the piano, the cello and the pipa, a stringed Chinese lute, in the past nine years.

"It was unimaginably difficult to teach a child like Samuel, but I managed. So I brought him to China with his friends to let more Chinese parents with autistic children know that there is still hope for these children," Lin said.

Born and raised in China, Lin left her post as a college teacher in 1991 to study education in the US. Then she married and settled there.

However, when Samuel was four years old, he was diagnosed with autism, a neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior.

"For a year, I was just shocked. I thought I must have done something bad, that God was punishing me," Lin said. "It took me a whole year to recover from the depression."

Lin quit her job and became a full-time caregiver for Samuel, but she found what she had learned from college didn't work on Samuel at all.

"You can't imagine how difficult it was to teach him to sit on a chair, to look at me and say hello," Lin said. "You just repeat the simple move for months before he starts to understand."

Lin bought countless teaching aids, including tools to teach autistic child about traffic lights, telling time or counting money.

"Meanwhile, I was also wondering whether it was possible to buy these kinds of tools in the Chinese market. If not, how did parents there cope with the education of autistic children?" Lin asked.

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