FLUSHING, NY, December 4, 2009 ― Raising and educating a child with autism is naturally fraught with challenges. But in China, the economic, educational, social and cultural challenges faced by these children and their parents can be especially daunting, because educational equity for children with disabilities applies only to those with hearing, visual and limited intellectual disabilities.
Chinese philanthropist Menglin Sun decided to change that. Her mission was inspired through her volunteer work at a Bejing hospital, where doctors were diagnosing children with autism but didn’t know what to do about the education of the children and their parents. Taking on the doctors’ challenge as her own, she established the Beijing Wucailu Children Centre to enable teachers to work one-on-one with parents and their children with autism. Today there are three branches of the center in Beijing, with over 80 teachers serving 200 students and their parents.
Peishi Wang, a Queens College professor of Educational and Community Programs, met Menglin in 2005 at a conference on applied behavior analysis in Beijing. Since then, she has been providing professional development for parents and teachers, while conducting research about the needs, supports, and coping strategies of parents of children with autism in the People’s Republic of China. The college recently partnered with the center to continue to provide professional development for these teachers and is currently researching ways to offer on-line educational support, teacher certification and other advocacy programs for this underserved group.
“Through this partnership, we can have an even greater impact not only on parents, teachers and children in the Queens College community but also in China, where our teacher education and research can really make a difference in shaping public policy and providing services to children with autism," said Francine Peterman, Queens College’s Dean of Education.
Shown here at a recent QC event held in Menglin’s honor are from left: James Muyskens, President; Menglin Sun; Sue Henderson, Vice President of Institutional Advancement; and Craig A. Michaels, Professor and Coordinator of Graduate Programs in Special Education. They are holding a gift of artwork from Menglin depicting interlocking hands underneath the globe.