My son, Zi Han, is five and half years old and has moderate autism. People call children like him “children of the stars.” My son has a very good memory, but lacks basic social and daily life skills.
To Live or to Die with My Autistic Son?
Zi Han was diagnosed with autism two years ago. The moment I learned of the diagnosis, my whole world collapsed. I felt hopeless and didn’t know how to face up to the fact that he had autism. I considered whether to live or to die with my son. This is a question that I struggled with for a long time. But I am an engineer and my reasoning mind brought me back to reality and restored my desire to live. If my son was going to be different from other children, how could I lay down as a bridge for my child to reach the other end of his life?
From Early Intervention to New Hope
When Zi Han was three years old, I took him to an organization and jumped into an early intervention program. Two years later, Zi Han’s language communication skills, level of understanding, and independent living skills have significantly improved. Currently, he stays in a regular preschool for half a day and receives rehabilitation training for the other half of the day. His development and progress have again reignited my desire for life.
Hope for Inclusive Education
Zi Han will reach school age next year and it is my hope that he will be able to attend a regular school. Everyone, regardless of disability status, has the right to an education. Children with disabilities, including those with autism, should receive an education together with other children of the same age so that they can communicate, exchange ideas, learn from each other, and develop emotionally and intellectually. They should also be given the opportunity to acquire self-management skills so that when they grow up, they will be prepared to adjust to social life. Special education separates children with autism, isolates them, and makes it difficult for them to enter a constantly changing world.
Regular preschools and elementary schools integrate children with autism, but do not provide individualized support to meet their needs and different abilities. Although it is referred to as inclusion, it is not truly inclusive, resulting in low enrollment of children with disabilities.
Real inclusion takes into account the different learning needs of children with disabilities, provides appropriate supports, and makes them feel safe, accepted, and respected so that they can make adequate progress. True inclusive education teaches children without disabilities to love and respect diversity. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, PRC Law on the Protection of Persons with Disabilities, and the Regulation on the Education of Persons with Disabilities provide the legal basis for inclusive education.
As a parent of a child with autism, my hope is that regular schools will prepare resource rooms and train special education teachers to provide instruction about inclusive education. There has been successful practice in other cities and areas and I hope that through the efforts of the government, we will see progress in our city, too.
Children with autism are often denied the opportunity to go to school with other children their age and therefore miss out on the opportunity to enjoy happy childhoods. Many of these children with autism are lonely, and long for social inclusion, acceptance, and affirmation.
The views expressed in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the NLM Family Foundation.