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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

YOUNG PAINTERS: Autistic children present their works at an event held by the Inside-Out Art Museum in Beijing on April 2, World Autism Awareness Day (LI FANGFANG)

However, most autistic kids are not as lucky as Kangkang to be able to go to normal school. "They need much more care and their education is too demanding," Zou said. Therefore, appropriate home education and parents' positive attitudes are essential.

She has a blog about autism called My Child is From the Stars. She has dedicated her whole life to looking after Kangkang. Most of her blog stories have encouraged other parents of autistic kids. When she loses her temper, she says sorry to her son in the blog as well.

For her, autism is not a piece of psychiatric jargon, but a reality of life. Regardless of how terrible the problem is, her life goes on with Kangkang's progress.

Zou teaches Kangkang how to look after himself in daily life and how to better adapt to society. For instance, Kangkang sometimes goes to the barber's by himself and participates in some public activities.

"For him, grasping the knowledge of social rules is more important than solving a complicated math question," Zou said.

Parents' worry

Kangkang lives in a relatively well-off family and thanks to his parents, he is able to receive appropriate training. But what about the other autistic children? Children can depend on their families for now, but what about their future?

Parents always worry about their children's future. After all, it is impossible for them to stay with their kids forever. Families joining the seminar asked artists and instructors if their kids with art talent can live by drawing, or what kind of social support policies or groups exist for their children.

Although many experts suggest that it is more important for children to learn to love art rather than to focus on learning rote techniques, Zhou Yi, art director of Inside-Out, is optimistic about these kids' future.

"There are autistic people who become artists abroad," Zhou said. Some Chinese galleries are interested in some of their works and have attempted to broker the deals, he noted.

In fact, it is more urgent to teach autistic children to maintain their living standards after their parents' death. Even if some of these children can become influential artists, they need help in life, said Zhou.

Kangkang's mother Zou said there are lots of therapeutic programs for little kids with autism, but training for teenagers lags far behind.

"Kangkang will have nothing to do after he is 16," Zou said, "I just hope he won't get bored."

Zou is planning to establish an autistic foundation and vocational training center to guarantee autistic children can be taken care of properly in the future.

Some non-governmental organizations like One Foundation have offered help, and charity activities were held on World Autism Awareness Day on April 2. But these programs are temporary and not systematic. Families with autistic children need a number of institutions offering systematic education. At the same time, only when society accepts autistic people without discrimination or pity can they live with dignity.

Email us at: lifangfang@bjreview.com

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