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Print Edition> Lifestyle
UPDATED: April 27, 2012 NO. 18 MAY 3, 2012
The Silence of the Kids
Raising awareness to care for and support autistic children
By Li Fangfang

Long Neck, painted by Xiong Weiming, an autistic child (COURTESY OF INSIDE-OUT ART MUSEUM)

On April 8 at the Inside-Out Art Museum in Beijing, artists, parents and instructors of autistic children shared their thoughts on education. The museum has held a series of charity activities for artistically talented autistic kids. Prior to the seminar, altogether 27 young painters with autism exhibited 451 artistic works in the museum. Many visitors said they had never thought the mind of the autistic children can be so beautiful.

"Their works are amazing," said Chen Danqing, a famous oil painter. Because they are unwilling to communicate with others, these kids totally focus on their inner feelings without disturbance from the external world. They can not only draw but also tell their own stories in this artistic way.

During the seminar, Yang Hongtao, an experienced instructor from north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region shared her method of teaching autistic children how to draw.

Like other art teachers, she initially taught kids technical drawing skills. But it seemed the students were stuck in a certain level and had no creative thinking when they became older.

Occasionally, she noticed a student named Zhu Wanjun coloring grasslands gray and asked why. "Because they are roasted to death in the sun," the child replied.

Yang became aware that her students tended to weave their feelings into their drawings. Then she guided them to feel things first by touching, smelling or tasting, before putting their emotions on paper.

"People may find it hard to interact with autistic people and tend to ignore their feelings. But this group of people with special needs have passionate feelings deep down," said Li.

The BARAC established an art studio in Beijing's 798 Art Zone in late March. Li runs the studio and continues to do volunteer work relating to autism. She often organizes classes in drawing and handicrafts and uses a micro-blog to call for more volunteers to help families with autistic children.

"We don't want to teach them, but to guide them to show their talent," Li said to Beijing Review.

Since autistic children easily feel insecure, they are less able to control their emotions. Parents must be more careful about words and behaviors. "Happiness is the core part of our activities," Li noted.

The BARAC holds a number of social activities to help autistic kids exhibit their talent, further integrating them with society and appealing for more understanding and help.

A small fraction of persons within the autistic spectrum show special talent such as memorization of trivia or the ability to make rapid and accurate mathematical calculations. Special education for children with autism shows the potential to unlock the talent of uniquely gifted but extraordinarily rare autistic savants and help children to improve their lives by learning how to cope with the disorder.

Show your talent

Shangxiejie Elementary School in Xicheng District is one of the few schools in Beijing that admits autistic children. "The essential problem for these students is getting them to interact with other people and function in society. Therefore, our target is to train them to adapt to social life," said Han Jianli, headmaster of the school.

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