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May 30, 2020

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Rally to help disabled children out of virus gloom

IN a small farmhouse in Qin’an County, northwest China’s Gansu Province, a gradient plank was laid on several steps where a girl, five and a half years of age, who goes by the name of Xiaoyi, walked gingerly from end to end to practice keeping her balance.

Suffering from cerebral palsy, Xiaoyi’s language ability and physical coordination lags way behind other children her age, thus mastering a simple skill requires a great amount of effort.

The sudden coronavirus outbreak that emptied public places, including rehabilitation centers, has brought much inconvenience to children like Xiaoyi, but it has not blocked their path to recovery.

To help these children tide over the difficult time and continue practicing, groups of people in China are taking action to offer much-needed assistance.

Parents have the most important role to play.

Over the past few years, Kang Yali, Xiaoyi’s mother, has accompanied her daughter to many places for medical treatment, spending more than 100,000 yuan (US$14,100), not a small sum of money for an ordinary rural family.

During the epidemic, Kang insisted on giving simple treatment to her daughter with great patience.

To improve the flexibility of Xiaoyi’s tongue, the mother placed grains of rice on the child’s lips and let Xiaoyi lick them one by one. She also cut out rectangles and squares to help her daughter know different shapes.

For even a simple word like “sofa,” Kang spent several days teaching her child how to read it out loud.

As a second force, many rehabilitation teachers have offered remote training courses to disabled children in China, with the help of their parents.

Hua Yinan, a rehabilitation teacher, has not yet returned to her workplace since the Spring Festival due to the COVID-19 epidemic. However, she managed to continue her children’s rehabilitation courses online.

For several months she has been instructing many disabled children remotely, including Xiaoyi, on China’s popular social media platform WeChat and other mobile applications. While professional assistive devices were unavailable during the epidemic, Hua instructed Kang to use materials at home to make simple rehabilitation equipment.

Kang used wooden sticks and benches as obstacles to train the child’s physical coordination and made small sandbags with old clothes to strengthen the physical power of the child.

“Rehabilitation of disabled children is a long-term process requiring continuous efforts. Though we cannot go back to the rehabilitation center now, the training at home cannot stop,” Hua said.

Apart from the parents and rehabilitation teachers, Jia Xiufang, an entrepreneur, has also devoted herself to helping disabled children for a long time.

In 2019, Jia, often called Mother Jia by children, set up a rehabilitation center providing treatment free of charge for disabled kids with the support of the local government in Jinnan District in north China’s Tianjin.

“This year, we plan to enroll 80 more children with cerebral palsy to our rehabilitation center,” Jia said.

Last year, local authorities in Jinnan integrated social resources and professional experts to establish a rehabilitation center.

“The center serves for the coordinated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, enabling disabled children from poverty-plagued and low-income families to access rehabilitation services free of charge,” said Liu Shuxin, director of the disabled persons’ federation of Jinnan District.

So far, more than 100 children with disabilities from Tianjin and provinces of Gansu and Hebei have received rehabilitation treatment in the center.

Xiaoyi was among the lucky children in the center. When the girl first arrived in Tianjin last October, she could not speak a single word, but now the girl can say to her mother: “I love you.”


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