Groups supporting children, families in autism community-Xinhua

Groups supporting children, families in autism community

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2024-04-02 19:52:15

A teacher interacts with an autistic child at a local training center for the disabled in Beichen District, north China's Tianjin, March 30, 2023. (Xinhua/Bai Jiali)

BEIJING, April 2 (Xinhua) -- Hu Xiaohua can often be found glued to her phone, exchanging suggestions and words of encouragement with other parents of children with autism.

Hu, now 45, was working at a cartoon company when her son was diagnosed with autism in 2014. Motivated to support him fully, she altered her career path and is today head of the Chunyu parents' support center in Hefei, the capital of east China's Anhui Province.

"Before, I knew nothing about autism," Hu said. "My son was adorable. I thought he was just a bit slower learning to talk than other children."

She said it was a difficult time for her, and that she could often be moved to tears when she spoke about her son.

During a trip to Guangdong Province in south China, she heard about the One Foundation, a non-government organization with programs for autism. She also learned about a parents' support project that the foundation sponsored. "Each parent is isolated," she said. "But if I could connect with other families, I knew I could be stronger when facing my own difficulties. We could help and encourage one another."

Inspired, she and several other parents of children with autism established a small support group in 2015. And with the support of the One Foundation, they founded the Chunyu parents' support center four years later.

"Here, parents can access information, training and one-on-one counseling," she said. "We also provide parents with re-employment training and entrepreneurship platforms, so they can bring in incomes while taking care of their children."

The center also connects parents with a team of professional psychologists and lawyers, helping them enroll their children in schools and providing vocational training and internship opportunities for the children when they grow up.

The One Foundation has aided many such organizations across China. By the end of 2023, the foundation had collaborated with more than 600 social organizations across China's 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, providing support to over 719,000 people.

According to Ren Shaopeng, who leads the autism project in the foundation, many Chinese families with autistic members still face with challenges in many areas. A report on autism education showed that in 2019, there were more than 10 million people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in China, which means a huge number of families face these challenges.

"In many cases, parents of autistic children devote considerable energy and resources to child care, but their social needs go beyond their children," he said. "We are vigorously investing in supporting parents' growth, and encouraging them to help and influence one another."

Children with autism attend a rehabilitation course at a rehabilitation center for people with disabilities in Jishou of Xiangxi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture, central China's Hunan Province, Oct. 15, 2020. (Xinhua/Cai Yang)

Feng Dong is among the great number of parents who have received support from the project. Ruirui, his daughter, was 3 in 2005 when her teacher told Feng she might have autism.

Like Hu, Feng had been unconcerned about any difference between his daughter and other children. Later, Feng and his wife realized that Ruirui had been late learning to walk independently, doing so at 21 months.

Feng said that he had been near breaking point, but gradually realized that avoiding the issue was useless. He began reading books about autism and working to help his daughter.

In December 2012, the Ningbo Xingbao autism family support center was established. At the center, parents can help one another and work toward solutions to the problems their children face, such as schooling, employment and care.

Ruirui has been attending the center since she graduated from a vocational high school, which she and her dad refer to as a "social university."

The center makes daily plans for each of its members from Monday to Friday, according to their wishes and its available resources. Ruirui works as a bookstore volunteer on Mondays, cleans a charity shop on Tuesdays, and helps deliver goods as a courier on Wednesdays.

"These are trivial tasks, but they give people social identities," Feng said. "When our members live in society as consumers, volunteers and laborers, they are regarded the same as everyone else, rather than as people who need to be tolerated and cared for, and they can be treated equally and integrate into the community."

Now, Ruirui moves independently within a 3-kilometer range from her home, traveling by bus or subway, shopping and eating out. Occasionally, she uses apps on her phone to order food for delivery.

"We have reason to believe that our communities will be better places in the future, where people with special needs can work and study normally, just like everyone else," Feng said.

Looking back on the years, Hu said, "I think my biggest growth was feeling like I have a mission."

She admits that she is now calmer than before and has learned a lot. "Basically every year, I master a new skill," she said. "My passion for learning over the past 10 years has been greater than ever."

There are still difficulties that autistic children face when integrating into society, she said. "People with autism need support from all aspects of society throughout their lives, so it is important to actively mobilize all of society to support them."

"As neurotypical people, we can start by not stigmatizing," she said. 


Comments (0)

    Follow us on