Queens College Helping China Address Autism

Queens College education specialists are providing guidance to Beijing's Wucailu Rehabilitation and Research Center, above.
Queens College is helping a Beijing child center cope with China's autistic population. The college began partnering with the Wucailu Rehabilitation & Research Center late last year to help improve special-education services for autistic children and their families.

Peishi Wang, assistant professor in special education, and her colleagues will help the center evaluate its programs and conduct online staff training for personnel from the center's three sites in Beijing. Queens College students will do internships in China and Chinese teachers will study at the college.

"By doing that, we can inform our practice," says Wang, who grew up in the city of Shenyang and conducted research for her dissertation in China. "We can take our students to China so they can think globally. It's universally beneficial."

Wang will travel to China in June with Craig Michaels, coordinator of special-education graduate programs, to assess the center's specific needs. The private center, founded by doctors in 2004, is headed by Menglin Sun, a philanthropist who met Wang at an international conference on applied behavior analysis in Beijing in 2005.

Of a population of 1.3 billion, there are about 83 million people with disabilities in China, according to a government study in 2006. Wang says it's not clear how many have autism because few doctors are trained to diagnose it.

Children with disabilities have been denied entry to Chinese public schools. As a result medical personnel and parents have established private special-education programs.

The Wucailu center also works closely with parents because in China parents are viewed as the primary service providers for their autistic children.

"Parents need the skills to understand their child's behavior, so they don't blame themselves or think that they were punished," says Wang. "Some believe that children grow out of autism. You don't get better by doing nothing, so there's a great need for parent-teacher training."