Finding appropriate schools for U.S. children with autism is challenging. It’s much worse in China.
Schools for children with autism
“There is no kindergarten that would take my grandson,” said Yi, grandmother to 4-year-old Yuxin who is autistic. Her grandson came to the Lingxing Community Service Center last September. Ordinary schools often refuse to admit children with disabilities.
Autism spectrum disorder is a term referring to a range of conditions beginning in childhood that are characterized by impaired social and communication skills, as well as a narrow set of interests. About 1 percent of the world’s population is affected by autism.
Lingxing Community Service Center
Seven years ago, Li Xiaojiao, then 20 years old, started the school in a small apartment in Taiyuan. Li had just graduated from college with a degree in education management. When she met Chaochao, a young boy with autism, her plans for future changed.
Li believed that Chaochao would thrive under the care of someone with patience, dedication, and knowledge of his special needs. She began her school with Chaochao and three other children with autism. She named the school “Lingxing,” meaning “Soul Stars,” and began learning psychology through self-study to better understand autism.
In China, autism is classified as a disability. Funding of education services for kids with autism from impoverished families has increased in recent years, and by the end of 2020, the central government aims to financially support 80 percent of children with autism, including those over the age of 7, who did not qualify for financial support before.
But access to education remains an issue, despite new regulations that came into effect on May 1 requiring public schools to develop better services for children with disabilities. There’s no clear pathway or time frame for achieving this goal, and experts have criticized the regulations for stopping short of guaranteeing access to education for children with disabilities.
Private school options
Although public schools are required to maintain a certain quota of children with disabilities, the number is so low that private institutions remain the only option for the majority, explained Jia Meixiang, deputy director of the Beijing Association for Rehabilitation of Autistic Children.
According to Jia, more than 1,000 private institutions across the country specialize in educating children with autism, and 90 percent were founded by people with no previous teaching experience, including some parents of children with autism. The institutions rely on tuition fees to survive and are usually under great financial pressure.
Source: Sixth Tone