New research center to help autism children in Shanghai

A NEW autism research center has opened in the city in an initiative to improve treatment for children with the condition.

The center, established by the Children's Hospital of Fudan University and US autism science and advocacy organization Autism Speaks, plans to conduct research in diagnosing and developing early treatment of the condition.

The city will also set up a three-stage network in community and hospitals for early screening of autism when children go for a physical check.

And it will provide people with autism receive personalized training near their homes.

According to a survey by the World Health Organization, there are at least one million known cases of autistic children in China. The number of known cases in Shanghai is around 8,000.

Dr Wang Yi, vice president of the hospital, said the figures for China are almost certainly underestimates. In Western countries, one in 100 children is diagnosed with autism.

Wang said China has no database of people with autism and has not set up feasible early screening and effective measures to treat autistic children.

She said the best time to detect autism in children is between 18 to 24 months old as this can make treatment more effective.

Geri Dawson, chief scientific officer of Autism Speaks, told Shanghai Daily the group has been working with 23 countries.

"We come to China to work together and learn from each other in improving research and treatment and building services for autistic children," Dawson said.

"The condition is not recognized in many children due to the lack of early screening and public awareness," she said.

At present there are eight non-government organization-run training centers for autistic children in Shanghai and 10 classes for special needs children at primary schools citywide. Each class has a capacity of 10, including children with autism.

Autism is developmental brain disorder that typically appears in the first three years of life, and affects ! the norm al development of social and communication skills.

The most common symptoms of children with autism are that they lack in eye contact and speech with others.

Wang said there were no professional measures to diagnose autism in China and the newly launched research center could make up the deficit.

She said the government is also planning to set up a specific foundation to raise fund for autistic children.


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