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April 3, 2014

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City works to raise awareness on autism

SHANGHAI’S iconic Oriental Pearl TV Tower turned blue yesterday to mark the World Autism Awareness Day.

Blue is the color to raise  awareness of autism and a global Light It Up Blue campaign was launched yesterday. Blue ribbons were also seen on the city taxis’ rearview mirrors.

Shanghai also established a Blue Ocean Club, the nation’s first database facility for people with autism. The club will arrange lectures and support for families with autistic patients and conduct research on screening, intervention and treatment for people with the disorder.

Awareness and care for children with autism are way short in China.

“China lacks professionals on autism diagnosis and treatment and there is no big-scale study on the disorder,” said Dr Wang Yi, vice president of the Children’s Hospital of Fudan University.

“There is rarely early screening and intervention on children with autism in the country. There is an urgent need to set up a network to enhance professional training and give support and direction to patients and their families.”

Autism is a disorder of neural development that impairs social interaction and verbal and non-verbal communication and repetitive or stereotyped behavior. The diagnostic criteria requires that symptoms become apparent before a child is three years old.

“Children with autism have no interest in people, they won’t smile, won’t communicate and don’t make eye contact with you,” Dr Xu Xiu, the director of child health department at Children’s Hospital of Fudan University, told Shanghai Daily yesterday. “Some may even lose words all their lives.”

“My 10-year-old girl was always absent-minded when she looked at people. When she was one year old, she could not learn to speak and walk,” a woman, surnamed Wang, said.

According to American Center for Disease Control and Prevention last year, there is one autistic child in every 88 American children. The annual medical cost on autism is US$5 billion in the US.

In Shanghai, there are an estimated 10,000 children with autism.

The city was the first in the country to offer rehabilitation and education to disabled children including those with autism that covered pre-school and mandatory education.


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