World Autism Awareness Day
In support of World Autism Awareness Day, April 2nd, 2019 our CTC logo is changing blue for the entire World Autism Month of April. Join us in increasing global understanding and acceptance of people with autism.
Special Needs in China
CTC is pleased to support children in financial need, children from single or no parent families, children with autism and children with other various disabilities.
CTC initially started with a focus on fund-raising for children in Zhuhai that needed financial assistance in areas such as education. However, CTC also observed how families with special needs children were also struggling, especially those who had low incomes and limited social support. CTC principally aims to support the child’s need but also recognises the importance and impact that special needs and financial strain can have on the whole family.
An Introduction to Autism
CTC funds many programs that support children with autism in their physical, cognitive and socioemotional development. Autism is a broad term that encompasses a large spectrum of conditions where symptoms are recognizable in various degrees. Broadly known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), there are a range of conditions that have similar characteristics. Those living with autism usually have problems using both verbal and non-verbal behaviours to interact with others. They often have difficulty expressing themselves and interpreting eye contact, facial expressions, body language and hand gestures. Those with autism may also have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression, or other physical medical conditions. Often those with autism can appear like they are living in their own world and quite oblivious to what is happening around them (unless they are in a stressful situation).
ASD broadly is often characterised by repetitive behaviour and strict adherence to routine. Children and young people with ASD frequently experience a range of cognitive (thinking), learning, emotional and behavioural problems. Although these children (and adults) lack some of the common personality traits needed to take part in today’s society, their condition can also positively allow them to have immense talents and strengths in other aspects of life, such as creativity and art.
Because children on the autism spectrum struggle to make strong inter-personal bonds or form relationships with other people, they end up suffering from severe loneliness. They desire the connections and emotions that result from meaningful relationships, but lack the social or cognitive skills to form them. Children with autism desire friendships in exactly the same way that children without autism do. CTC supports programs that encourage children with autism in developing their social skills and understanding social situations. These are some key skills that will benefit their ability to form and maintain relationships in their life.
Awareness of autism in China has grown in recent years, fuelled by parents and autism awareness organizations. Autism was officially recognised as a disability in China in 2006 and since then, awareness has been rising. At CTC we are proud to be funding projects for children with autism in Zhuhai. The past decade has recognized autism as a condition in need of greater attention, and CTC recognises that the whole family is affected when a child is diagnosed with autism. With the help of local charities combined with the funds raised by those who sponsor and attend each Come Together event, we increase the awareness of autism and help these children to foster and nourish their natural abilities.
History/Present Circumstances of Special Needs in China
In 1951, the Decision to Reform the Education System (organised by the Chinese Political Council) required all governments in China to establish schools for individuals with visual, hearing and physical disabilities. This document, for the first time in Chinese educational history meant that children and adolescents with disabilities experienced some degree of educational inclusion. More recently, over the past two decades, legislative and administrative progress has been made with serious steps to improve the living conditions and social status of those living with disabilities.
The Law on the Protection of Disabled Persons (1991/2008) addresses a variety of issues including education for those with disabilities. This means that the educational future of those living with learning difficulties is beginning to look more positive.
In the 1980s there was a drive towards inclusion in education in China, with Learning in Regular Classrooms (LRC) being established. This meant that due to the compulsory education mandate, many children with special needs (who previously wouldn’t have been enrolled) were finally included in the education system.
China’s previous labour market situation meant that learning disabilities often went unnoticed due to a traditionally higher emphasis on manual labour than education. This has led to a systemic tendency to a) not recognize learning disabilities, or b) not categorise certain disorders (such as ADHD) to need special services or assistance in everyday life. As a result, disabled Chinese are often denied access to specialist educational opportunities. They are either placed in mainstream education, which is not tailored to their specific needs, or denied access to education altogether. This means that only 25% of disabled children enrol in high schools or higher educational institutions, and in turn, this can lead to elevated poverty and poor living conditions for the disabled/special needs demographic.
In China, there are six classes of disability acknowledged. These are visual, hearing, intellectual, physical and psychiatric and multiple impairments. Although education became compulsory, it still doesn’t mean that children in main stream educational facilities are being provided with adequate support to make the most out of the available educational opportunities. Many educational establishments lack one or more of the necessary aspects that would enable a disabled child to have to same level of opportunity as that of a non-disabled student (such as funding, infrastructure, resources, support groups or teacher training). Regardless of the increase in enrolment for children with special needs, those with disabilities often slip under the radar and do not get adequate help in regular classrooms.
China has some of the highest population numbers for people living with disabilities worldwide and many of them are illiterate. A high percentage of those living with a disability also live in a rural setting where accessibility to help is little to none. Poverty and lack of education remain key obstacles in the personal growth and development of this demographic, and it has been estimated that over a quarter of children with disabilities receive no basic education.
Because many children with special needs come from impoverished areas or low-income families, accessibility to resources and transport have historically presented (and still present) challenges to attendance. This is one area that CTC supports through our partner CPAZ (The Charity Promotion Association of Zhuhai), who supply children in Zhuhai with necessities for school that they wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise.
In 1990 there was another legislative effort towards better inclusive education with The Protection of Disabled Person’s Law. This was towards having better quality pre-school programs and services available to children with disabilities. With a family focus, it promoted the idea that work units and communities have shared responsibility for the care of disabled individuals.
One key word to describe opportunity and accessibility of help for those disabled, or those with a disabled child, would be limited. Although reform has occurred, and the opportunities to take part in education apply, it is still difficult and plagued with limitations for those individuals who have disabilities, as well as their families. It remains an issue that although these children are being enrolled and admitted into inclusive educational systems and facilities, they are continuing to be segregated and disadvantaged. It takes more than simply enrolment for these children to succeed within an educational establishment. Individualised learning programmes and support is key.
Because communities are forming who raise awareness for special needs in China, the needs of those who live with a disability are becoming more and more acknowledged. Through education and awareness, the ability of organisations like ZAS, LJL and CTC aim to help and make a difference in these children’s lives. With the support of the community and organisations like the ones listed above, CTC can keep striving to provide the necessary aspects these children need to succeed and excel in their lives.
References and Bibliography
Autism Speaks. (n.d.). What Is Autism? Retrieved from: https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism
Bi, YingHu., Training Needs for Implementing Early Childhood Inclusion in China, (2010) International Journal of Early Childhood Special Education (INT-JECSE), June 2010 2:1
Deng, M. & Holdsworth, J. C. (2007). From unconscious to conscious inclusion: meeting special education needs in West China. (Journal for Disability & Society; 507-522; 22(5)). Retrieved from: http://www.tandfonline.com.ezproxy.lincoln.ac.nz/doi/full/10.1080/09687590701427644?scroll=top&needAccess=true#
Human Rights Watch. (2017). China: New Rules for Students with Disabilities Inadequate. Retrieved from: https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/03/06/china-new-rules-students-disabilities-inadequate
Kritzer, Jeffery B., Comparing Special Education in the United States and China, (2012), International Journal of Special Education, Vol 27, Nov 2, 2012
Krizter, Jeffery B., Special Education in China (2011), Eastern Educational Journal, Volume 40(1) Spring 2011, pp 57-63
Niederhofer (nee Jenson), K. (2016). – Private Resource available on file for CTC (Information Resources>Special_Needs_Report(3))
Ryan, J., Chen, L. C. & Saich, T. (2014) Philanthropy for Health in China. Indiana University Press. Retrieved from: https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/lincoln-ebooks/detail.action?docID=1782268#