Act for autism: Online training helps special education teachers

By Cui Can
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, January 6, 2018
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The two-year-old boy looked like any child his age, playing with plastic buckets and model trains in a baby-proofed room. The facility, however, serves to monitor children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The center for VB-MAPP assessment in Ing Care, a Beijing-based online platform for educating teachers on how to interact with children with autism. [Photo provide to]

Also in the room was 28-year-old Xu Ziwei, with pen and notebook in hand and carefully observing the child's every move. Throughout the day, Xu would use a wide variety of tests to assess the child's capabilities in behaviors as well as his verbal, learning, and social capabilities in order to design a treatment plan.

Xu is the first Board Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctoral Level (BCBA-D, a widely recognized certification of behavior analysis) in China and chief technology officer at Ing Care, a Beijing-based online platform for educating teachers on how to interact with children with ASD. She said her company aims to close the gap between research and practice in treating children with autism. 

Improving awareness and expertise

IDEA academy, a research and development lab in Ing Care, which will be officially put into operation this January. [Photo provided to]

Xu went to the U.S. in 2012 to study special education. There, she saw the huge gap between China and the U.S. in the field of autism study and rehabilitation. After earning a doctorate degree in special education at Ohio State University in 2016, Xu decided to return to China and join Ing Care.

Xu said she was attracted by the company's mission to spread expertise and knowledge of autism via the internet, and that she was happy to see that Chinese companies are willing to apply advanced and scientific methods to this end.

Founded in July 2014, Ing Care provides online courses to both parents and teachers, as well as assessments for children with autism. This January, the company will launch a research and development lab in Beijing. 

“We get the first-hand teaching experience from our research lab, and offer a set of more suitable and professional intervention solutions for Chinese families with children with autism, and to better supplement our online courses in the future," Xu said. 

Wang Wei, the CEO of Ing Care, explained that the main problems in the field of autism rehabilitation are the lack of qualified teachers and the ineffectiveness of available training. "Based on our market research, 83 percent of the autism support teachers are college graduates or below, and they begin to teach children with autism after only two weeks of training. And only 8 percent of these teachers have degrees in special education."

Wang said he hoped his company's online courses can improve the awareness and expertise among teachers and parents across China. 

Conservative estimates from experts say the number of people identified with ASD in China reaches around 10 million, with an upward trend of 200,000 new diagnoses every year.

Meanwhile, the industry of professional care for autism is facing a severe shortage of labor. According to Xu Xiaoming, general secretary of the China Association of Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons, there are only 12 Board Certified Behavior Analysts in all of China, as well as 12,000 registered autism support teachers. 

Xu said the China Disabled Persons' Federation invited qualified teachers with expertise to give courses in rehab centers across China. However, at a very high cost in time and money, this effort had not produced the expected results.

The online education platform at Ing Care could not have come at a better time. "Now we have the best teachers to give courses online, and more teachers are joining Ing Care's community to acquire essential knowledge in a time-saving and convenient way," Xu Xiaoming said.

The company has so far provided training to more than 12,000 teachers in cooperation with the China Association of Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons -- nearly 50 percent of over 21,000 autism support teachers in China. These teachers would go on to help around 72,000 children diagnosed with ASD.

Furthermore, Ing Care has provided free online courses to about 3,000 parents on how to best support their children with autism, according to the company's annual report.

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