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Professional autism therapists badly needed in China


Ms. Li, a middle-school teacher found when her son was 26 months old, he still couldn’t speak. Li Li Juan brought him to the hospital. She was told he had mild autism. However, she couldn’t find an autism specialist in their hometown or a school that could handle his special needs, so she received training to teach kindergarten in order for her son to attend her class.



Eventually, she discovered the Beijing Stars and Rain Education Institute for Autism, the oldest autism treatment facility in China.She and her son, in February moved here, to a temporary apartment next to the clinic for three months of applied behavior analysis, or ABA, therapy. Her son has made significant improvements, such as being able to dress himself.



China has a long way to go in providing high-quality autism intervention to everyone who needs it, experts say.For instance, ABA improves children’s communication and social skills by reinforcing desired actions and ignoring unwanted ones. In all of mainland China, there are only four board-certified behavior analysts—an internationally recognized credential—to treat autism. By contrast, there are 101 in Rhode Island.The services that do exist in China are largely for children up to 6 years old, and there are no services for adults, says Yanhui Liao, president of the Shenzhen Autism Society. In addition, there are very few professional therapists available in China, the Chinese parents have to treat their children at home after learning from the therapists.



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