Qing Cong Quan Autism Center (QCQ) is one of seven Shanghai schools dedicated to educating autistic children. There are 10,000 autistic children in Shanghai, according to the Autism Children Foundation. Despite the high numbers, few public Shanghai schools in the city accept children with autism.
Like many educators, Chen Jie knew little about autism. In fact, when QCQ opened its doors in 2004, it was a regular preschool. That year, a father approached Chen Jie asking if she would enroll his autistic son. At the time Shanghai had no autism schools, and no one else would admit the child. Chen Jie agreed, and word spread as more and more parents came with their autistic children. It seemed that Chen Jie’s calling had found her. Within a few months, QCQ officially became a Chinese NGO and school for autistic children.
Since the Chinese government recognized the disorder in 2006, knowledge about autism has grown, but public awareness continues to be spotty. Chen Jie and her staff focus on educating not only children, but also parents across China and the local community. “We grab every opportunity to tell people what autism is and invite them to come see,” says Chen Jie.
Families of autistic children do still face social stigmas. Often one parent must quit their job to stay home with their child, adding financial pressures. The QCQ staff helps parents deal with the huge learning curve that come from having a special needs child and teaches parents how to help their kids develop.
Chen Jie explains, “We never say the kids lack care, but that they need training.” That is something often lacking outside of QCQ.