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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Autism in China, Continued

China Daily reports on the Chinese government's inadequate response to autism, citing the example of Yao Yiyi and his mother Liu:

According to the China Disabled Persons' Federation, more than 90 percent of people with autism face difficulties in going to public schools or getting jobs.

China's first case of autism, a disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, as well as restricted and repetitive behavior, was reported in 1983. [emphasis added]

Since then, the autistic population has swelled to about 4 million nationwide. Although there is no official data on the number of child sufferers, a 2004 study by the Beijing Rehabilitation Association for Autistic Children suggested it could be in the region of 450,000.

Yao's parents spend 2,000 yuan ($300) a month for his tuition at Anhua Intelligence Training School, the only State-funded vocational center for children with learning difficulties in the capital's Chaoyang district. They also pay 1,300 yuan a month to rent an apartment near the school.

Money is tight, especially as Liu is on long-term leave from her army unit in Baicheng, Heilongjiang province, and her husband is studying for a PhD at Tsinghua University.

"Financial difficulties can be conquered. We're more worried about what is going to happen to our son after our deaths," explained Liu, 34. "Sometimes we hope he will never grow up or that he will die before us."

Autism is detectable very early in a child's development, yet Liu said doctors in Baicheng took more than three years to confirm Yao's diagnosis, causing serious delays to his treatment.