You are not alone: Creating a future for autistic children
Shi Yan

More than ten million people in China are on the autism spectrum. The figure is increasing rapidly, with over 100,000 new cases being diagnosed each year.

In the face of such huge numbers, China’s specialist educational institutions and social support system for people with autism are falling far short of what is required. Public recognition and acceptance of the condition are also lacking. The result is that people on the autism spectrum are often excluded from society. 

Luo Shuji is 12 years old. She was diagnosed with autism when she was two. Regular schools rejected her for being too noisy and disruptive in class, and her parents were dissatisfied with the level of care at the local special school. So, they had almost no alternative other than to teach Shuji at home.

However, looking after an autistic child can be a challenge. Shuji is still unable to express herself like other children her age. To demonstrate that she wants something, she cries or even tries to harm herself. Mealtimes can be especially tricky. But her mother ignores her tantrums, determined that Shuji must learn to feed herself. “You can’t expect others to feed her when she is 30 or 50," Cai Minyan says. "It's impossible."

When Cai learned about an institution in Beijing that offered support not only for teenagers with autism but also for the families, she immediately signed Shuji up.

Luo Shuji with her teacher. /CGTN Photo

Luo Shuji with her teacher. /CGTN Photo

At the Stars and Rain Education Institute for Autism, Shuji is undergoing therapy to improve her manual coordination and interpersonal skills. Her mother has already noticed a marked improvement. "You see how she’s standing? It’s much better than before," she says. "Now she's okay about feeding herself." 

Luo Shuji and her mother. /CGTN Photo

Luo Shuji and her mother. /CGTN Photo

However, her mother is still worried about Shuji’s future. "When a girl like my daughter reaches adolescence, she will be even more difficult to look after. She’ll find it very hard to deal with menstruation,” she says. “What if she’s pregnant? What should we do?"

Cai believes the government should take more responsibility in caring for people living with autism. Her hope, she says, is that Shuji will be taken care of by "a professional care center where she can live quietly."

Rediscovering China is a 30-minute feature program offering in-depth reports on the major issues facing China today. It airs on Sunday at 10.30 a.m. BJT (02.30 GMT), with a rebroadcast at 11.30 p.m. (15.30 GMT), as well as on Monday at 8.30 a.m. (00.30 GMT) and Friday at 1.30 p.m. (05.30 GMT).