There isn’t a reason to think China’s rate of autism, a developmental disorder characterized by social and communication deficits, is very different from that of other countries, experts say. That means that there likely are millions of people in China with autism, though researchers are unsure about exact numbers.
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 and more than 3,100 in California, according to the U.S.-based Behavior Analyst Certification Board.
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.
For now, many therapists in China, even at the most respected clinics, learn ABA from a book, says Karina Cheung, one of the four certified behavior analysts in China, who started the Starrysky Education and Research Center in Beijing in 2012.