Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Face to Face: A Look at Autism

Autism is a relatively new diagnosis in China.  After the Hangzhou delegation was able to tour the therapy centers in the US, they told us they had around 6-7 children at the orphanage who they suspected had Autism.  Anne Harrington, autism specialist from Mpls is one of our volunteers.  We knew she would be able to diagnose and help some families in China.  Here is what Anne demonstrated:
 A foster mother told us that her child doesn’t talk much at all., nor does he interact with others and prefers to be by himself with a single toy.  Anne asked if he ever asks for something he wants such as food.  Foster mom said, “No.  He just brings my hand to the object he wants.” Children with autism have difficulty interacting socially and prefer to focus their attention on an object rather than a person.  Often they lack  verbal abilities.  If a child with autism, for instance, wants a sucker unwrapped, he will place the sucker in the caregiver’s hand and stare at the hand rather than interact face to face. The goal is to increase social skills by enticing the child to ask for what he wants by looking into the caregiver’s eyes and even asking for the object by name. 
Anne enticed the child with a particularly visually interesting toy.  The child became fascinated with it but as soon as he put it down, Anne scooped up the toy! When the child went to look for it, she brought it up to her face with animated gestures and a huge smile.  As soon as he made eye contact, (success!) she handed the toy to him as a reward.  The next step was to up the ante.  This time when he put the toy down Anne picked it up again.  When the little guy looked for it a moment later Anne did the same gesture by bringing it up to her face… this time saying the Mandarin word for toy: “Wan ju!”  Our little guy really wanted that toy.  But Anne kept bringing it to her face saying “Wan ju!”   Finally after several rounds of this the child reached for the toy, made eye contact with Anne and said, “Wan ju.”  Huge success!!! The foster mother was amazed, but better yet, she now had a therapeutic intervention to help her child with autism.


  1. How it warms my heart and brings tears to my eyes to know that each of you are bringing so much hope to the children of Hangzhou!Seeing the smile and pure joy on Anne's face just warms my soul! I can't wait to hear what the staff and the foster families have to say about the kids that are now living with their forever families! Enjoy your day! Please send my gratitude and my love to everyone there!
    Kim Schrink
    mom to Shao Ren He aka Eli
    adopted 1/1/11

  2. Thanks for the updates...I am so excited that RTC has added an autism specialist and a speech therapist to our wonderful team! It just keeps getting better and better. Keep up all the great work! I am missing being there that is for sure...it is so strange to not be part of the team this year after going for four years but I am there in spirit and am excited to pass on the baton to my co-worker and friend Rachel. I look forward to hearing more and seeing more pictures. -Kiki

  3. Anne, What a beautiful story! I can hear you saying "Wan ju" to the child and feel your excitement as he repeats it back to you!
    Julie Kuberski