Autism, and ABA, in China

By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

Founding Editor,

The Wall Street Journal recently published a story on the state of autism services in China.

Analysts estimate several million children with autism likely live in China — a number that is actually proportionally in line with most other countries.  However, there is a big (or small) catch — there are only four Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) in the entire country.  To give you some perspective, Rhode Island alone has over 100 BCBAs.

BCBAs are certified to provide the gold-standard treatment for autism known as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), which emphasize building social and communication skills through positive reinforcement.  ABA services in China are few and far between.  The few services available stop therapy after six years of age and no services exist for adults.

However, things are looking up thanks in large part to parental advocates.  In recent years, the government has poured more funding into autism research and outreach.  For example, two large-scale studies are under way across multiple cities and hundreds of thousands of children to better determine the prevalence of autism in the country.  Moreover, a Chinese language mobile app to facilitate communication was recently released, and the World Health Organization recently designed an intervention curriculum for parents.

Nevertheless, few treatment locations mean parents have to travel great distances for services, suffer long wait lists, and navigate a maze of untested alternative treatments that physically harm the children, such as teachers picking at students’ mouths to get them to speak, which creates open sores.

To read more about the situation in China, visit the hyperlink above.  Also consider subscribing to bSci21 via email to receive new articles, directly to your inbox!

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