Rehabilitation assistance brightens future of disabled children

(Xinhua) 08:35, January 22, 2024

LANZHOU, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) -- At Hongmeng disabled persons' service center in Lanzhou, capital of northwest China's Gansu Province, dozens of children are engaged in various activities such as stretching their limbs, practicing walking, and reciting words and sentences, guided by their rehabilitation therapists, at the break of dawn.

As the only designated rehabilitation institution for disabled children in Yongdeng County, Lanzhou, the center through local government sponsorship has provided free treatment for more than 200 children with cerebral palsy, autism, or intellectual disabilities over the past four years.

Many disabled children uttered their first "mom" or "dad" and took their first steps at the center, and director Meng Caiping believes that early training allows them a chance to reintegrate into society.

In 2018, China established a national assistance system for the rehabilitation of disabled children that reinforced funding and institutional support for efforts to assist them. Therefore, Meng founded the Hongmeng disabled persons' service center, with the assistance of the county's disabled persons' federation.

"Initially, there were only two physical therapy beds, but now the center has developed into a comprehensive rehabilitation institution with multiple departments, including physical therapy, speech therapy, and personal training," said Meng.

Tao Tao (pseudonym), a 13-year-old boy from Yongdeng County, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was only eight months old. He joined Hongmeng four years ago with the support of the county's disabled persons' federation.

"Before, he couldn't speak, walk, or indicate his needs for urination or defecation. I had to stay at home all day taking care of him. I thought he would spend his life in a wheelchair," said Tao Tao's mother.

When Tao Tao first arrived, his overall muscle strength was low, and the movement of his limbs was restricted. The center decided to continuously press, rub, and stimulate his muscles, repeatedly calling out his name to guide him in performing movements. Gradually, his arms and legs became more flexible, according to his therapist He Jingjing.

After a year and seven months of treatment, Tao Tao took his first steps. Now, he can walk independently and understand simple instructions, said He.

With the local government providing an annual rehabilitation training fee of 16,000 yuan (about 2,248 U.S. dollars), Tao Tao's future looks brighter. His mother can now take him to the park, envisioning a time when he can take care of himself.

Many parents like Tao Tao's mother, once burdened by years of caring for their children and social isolation, find solace in learning about the rehabilitation programs at the center, with hope rekindled, said Meng.

Despite the unwanted repercussions such as scars and marks left by the children's scratching and biting during therapy, the staff of the center also resolve to persist, as they are inspired by the belief that saving a child means saving a family.

Many Chinese families have benefited from the national assistance system for the rehabilitation of disabled children since its establishment in 2018. In Gansu, designated rehabilitation institutions for disabled children have increased from 30 to 205 over the past years.

The provincial government also invests over 43 million yuan annually to support the rehabilitation institutions, and that figure is expected to increase to 63 million yuan in 2024. Some cities and counties further adopt diverse development models, including public-private partnerships, to include more disabled children aged between 6 and 17 in the rehabilitation assistance system.

With the efforts of Hongmeng disabled persons' service center, over 20 children have returned to kindergarten, more than 30 have integrated into regular schools, and over 10 gained employment in restaurants after turning 18.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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