Tolerance urged for children with special needs

(China Daily) 13:15, August 22, 2022

Zhang Jing (right), whose grandson has autism spectrum disorder, meets with Zhu Daqian, a pediatric psychologist at Children's Hospital of Fudan University in Shanghai. [LIN SHUJUAN/CHINA DAILY]

Every time Mickey takes a flight with his parents and other family members, he travels with them in the first or business class cabin.

However, his parents are not pampering Mickey, who has autism spectrum disorder. Being in economy class significantly increases the risk of him offending a passenger or crew member during a flight.

Zhang Jing, Mickey's grandmother, hopes that society can be more tolerant of those like Mickey who have special needs. "Based on our experience, there is more tolerance for such children on international flights," she said.

Mickey was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder when he was 3, since when he has undergone therapy with Zhu Daqian, a pediatric psychologist and director of the psychology department at Children's Hospital of Fudan University.

Due to early intervention, the 10-year-old now leads a relatively normal life. Although he has found Chinese lessons challenging, he excels in math and has a strong interest in science. He also has a flair for music and can compose pieces for piano.

Although he is still shy, he no longer avoids eye contact when communicating with his family members, teachers and close friends. According to Zhang, it is difficult to tell that Mickey has the disorder, until he starts acting up in public.

Zhang recalled the first consultation session with Zhu, who encouraged the family to look to the boy's strengths.

"I remember saying that we didn't see any hope for Mickey, but Zhu told us that this was definitely not the case. She said that every child is talented in a certain way, and that we had to find Mickey's strengths and allow him to shine through them. She proved to be right."

Zhang said that whenever she finds her grandson has made a new breakthrough-be it winning an award in a piano contest or breaking away from a set routine-she feels really proud of him.

"Yet no matter how much he improves, he might still act in a certain way that is regarded as offensive by strangers," Zhang said. "As a result, he is despised and not forgiven by them, which is what worries and hurts us the most. If society cannot tolerate his differences, he won't have the chance to shine with his talent."

Zhang said that during a recent family outing, Mickey annoyed a young man by repeatedly touching the latter's sleeping berth. She added that her family members spent an hour apologizing to the man without mentioning the boy's condition.

"We will never mention it when Mickey is around," Zhang said. "It's not his fault that he was born different to others. He has made efforts to adjust to the norms of society, but it's also up to society to recognize and tolerate his differences."

Zhang remains optimistic, as her grandson is able to attend school along with other pupils. "One day he will also be able to find his place in society," she said.

Wang Hui, a teacher turned psychological counselor, who works at Shanghai Zhabei No 1 Primary School, believes that inclusive education is crucial to improving tolerance in society for such differences.

Her school was one of the first in China named as an example in caring for students' mental health. Over the years, the school has championed inclusive education, which aims to provide special needs children with equal access to quality education.

"Students with learning disorders might have difficulties learning in the typical way, but this doesn't mean they cannot learn in a different way," Wang said. "This is the importance of inclusive education. We help find the most effective ways for these students to learn.

"There is an increasing social consensus that inclusive education benefits not only children with special needs, but normal kids as well.

"It is clear that those who have classmates with special needs are more considerate and tolerant. They show understanding to those in need and are always ready to help. Parents see the benefit and no longer oppose inclusive education, even developing empathy toward kids with special needs."

(Web editor: Wu Chaolan, Liang Jun)


Related Stories