when we hear about China, the stories focus on factories and goods,
jobs shipped overseas and other news items that make the country sound
uninviting. But when ABILITY Magazines Chet Cooper
traveled there to meet some of his counterparts in publishing, he
found himself forming lasting friendships.
During that time, ABILITY Magazine (AM) and China Press
for People with Disabilities (CP)including their sister
publication Spring Breeze, announced their intention to
exchange editorial content that would be published in both China and
the US. And over the months, they followed through with their editorial
exchange, including articles on autism, art therapy, rare diseases,
and teaching with a disability. The stories have been of a human
interest natureexploring common experiences, as well as the
differences, that people with health conditions and disabilities face
in both countries.
Another agreement between CP and AM is the first ever art exhibition
in the US, featuring the works of Chinese artists with disabilities.
And the following year, CP will, in return. host an art
exhibition showcasing the works of American artists with disabilities
Recently, Ni Lin, publisher of CP, and Wei Mengxin, Chinas United Nations delegate,
and several of their colleagues who had hosted Cooper in Beijing,
paid AM a visit. They spent several days in Southern California, meeting
some of the AM team, watching the surfers from the Huntington
Pier, seeing highlights of Los Angeles and enjoying an evening at
the annual Disability Rights Legal Center (DRLC) gala.
As a special portion of the gala, Ni and the delegation presented
a beautiful framed carving to DRLC Executive
Director Paula Pearlman, for allowing the CP and AM to
promote the forth coming art exchange project. Eight of the art pieces
were unveiled during the event. More than 80 pieces will be part of
the coming exhibition.
The gala, also known as the Franklin D. Roosevelt dinner, is dedicated
to Americas 32nd president. FDR had polio andbehind the
scenesgot around the White House in a wheelchair. This
year, the FDR dinner noted positive portrayals of disability in distinguished
network television programming. Kurt Yaeger,
a co-star of Sons of Anarchy hosted.
Also on the bill for the evening were the Sundance cable network starsand
our past cover subjectsThe Push
Girls, who navigate the world in wheelchairs, along with Ashley
Fiolek, our longtime columnist. The DRLCs mission is
to champion the rights of people with disabilities through education,
advocacy and litigation, while ABILITY Magazine, along
with its Chinese counterparts, seeks to provide new insights and awareness
into our individual levels of ability.
next story is part of a series of articles published as part of an
exclusive editorial exchange between China Press for People with
Disabilities/Spring Breeze and ABILITY Magazine.
If you pass the Xinyun Institute for Children with Mental Retardation,
you will see Mao Yu-yans name in the buildings window.
Although shes the founder of the institute, her contribution
to the research and education of children with developmental disabilities
isnt often spoken about.
At 86, no one believes that she still works. But she can often be
found traveling alone by bus from her home in Sanlihee, to the facility
in Beijing where she serves as a consultant. She refuses to use a
driver: Each way takes two hours. Its a waste of time
for him. When others tried to persuade her otherwise, she became
angry. Finally, a compromise was reached: At the end of the day, a
driver takes her a short way to a station where she rides the bus
the 20 stops back home.
Born in 1926, Mao Yu-yan is the daughter of Mao Yi-sheng, Chinas
leading expert on bridge construction. Shes a researcher on
the psychological health of infants at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
In 2000, she was awarded the China Naito International Award for Child
Education for extensive research in early training of children with
An Alarming Rate: One in 100
It was in 1975 that a doctor from a hospital in Beijing was asked
to test the IQ of children with developmental disabilities. At the
time, strange new therapies were being used to treat them, such as
having them eat pig brains, or injecting the childrens brains
with various animals fluids, and other such concoctions. Maos
job as a researcher was to work with the doctors.
The pig brains, supplied by the Beijing Meatpacking Plant, were processed
into drugs to treat 160 children with developmental disabilities.
Soon, however, researchers discovered not only was there no value
in these treatments, but they also led to serious side effects, such
as high cholesterol and obesity. The experiments were soon interrupted
by the devastating Tangshan Earthquake in 1976.
After things settled down again, Mao continued her work. She volunteered
to go to a local Beijing clinic to explain the difference between
amentia and psychosis to the nurses and doctors there. She received
a list of 788 people with developmental disabilities, which accounted
for about 3.4 percent of the total numbers she surveyed.
I was astonished by the high ratio! Three people in 1000 are
have a mental disability, she said. Because the samples did
not include the so-called underachievers and children under three
years of age, she began to wonder if the ratio might be higher. After
she conducted further research, she came up with a new ratio of 1.07%,
which was widely accepted. But the news didnt lead to widespread
concern, because most people thought there was no hope for these children.
Mao insisted that they had a lot of untapped potential.
I kept appealing to the public to recognize that the early training
of pre-school age children with developmental disabilities is very
important. If they are over six years old and miss that window for
training, their IQ is unlikely to improve, she says.
Mao befriends the childrens parents. They often have heart-to-heart
talks, even sharing details of their personal lives. More and more
people know her name, and she receives a lot of mail from distant
places. Some of their questions are hard to reply to, so I give
them common sense advice, and comfort them again and again, often
remaining awake all night, she says.
When asked if her famous father influenced her career choice, Mao
says no. In her memoir, she recalls that her father was
so kind-hearted that every payday, he would first send money to someone
else in need, and then budget for the familys expenses. Following
her fathers personal example, she sends money to a family member
with a developmental disability just as she has every month for the
last 40 years.
In 1980, as a visiting scholar, Mao studied at Cornell University
for six months. When she returned to Beijing, she initiated a program
for educating children with developmental disabilities, and then promoted
the early form of special education schools in Beijing. At the time,
some of her colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Sciences chose to
research gifted children, which was low cost and rewarding, while
Mao devoted herself to the research of children with developmental
A New, Long March
From 1980 to 1986, Mao researched the psychological development of
roughly 1000 infants and young children, focusing on a close study
of 29 children from birth to age three. Based on this research, she
designed the first diagnostic scale to provide the foundation for
diagnosis and treatment. While in her sixties, she spent a great deal
of time traveling to clinics to conduct inquiries.
At the same time, she began writing training manuals, but could not
get access to outside resources for more information, except from
brochures. Drawing from her own experiences, as well as what she read
in brochures, she classified and analyzed her data, and finally completed
The Early Intervention Program for Mentally Retarded Children, which
is the predecessor to The Early Education Manual for Mentally Retarded
The manual was published in five colors: sea blue, pink, yellow, beige
and light blue, which correspond to specific areas of training, which
include physical movement, fine motor skills, language, cognitive
capability, and social behavior. The manual is very thick,
says Mao, covering everything, so that therapists dont
need to use other books.
Still, her full vision has yet to be realized due to a lack of support.
Some doctors and therapists at large hospitals didnt believe
children with developmental disabilities can learn vocabulary beyond
the word Mom.
Undeterred, Mao headed to the library to look for other ways to achieve
her goals. One summer morning, she found her inspiration in a foreign
book. She learned that parents in the United States were instrumental
in getting laws passed to prevent prejudice, and to ensure the education
of children with developmental disabilities. It was a beacon
calling me forth, she would later say. She realized it was possible
to organize the parents of these children to help build a special
In 1985, 16 like-minded strangers gathered in the meeting room of
a mental institute to discuss how best to establish a school for these
children. A preparatory committee was formed. She named the school
Xinyun, which means that it could offer a new destiny to unlucky children.
Finding Dignity in Cleaning Tables
Though its establishment attracted wide attention, and especially
won the support of many celebrities and experts, the Xinyun Institute
has still had to relocate a number of times. It began in Zizhuyuan,
with two rooms, three retired women, two children with developmental
disabilities, and an old organ.
What are you doing here? curious passersby would sometimes
We are training these children, teachers would reply.
Is it necessary to train them? It sounds interesting,
they would say.
Over time, the childrens numbers grew: From two to four,
and then to 20. The school had to be relocated as rents rose and spaces
grew too small, Despite the poor conditions, the teaching remained
rigorous and precise. Mao divided the children into three classes
according to their ages, providing group teaching, activities and
individual training. Each child received an individualized program.
When I wrote the manual, I had no idea if it would be productive,
Mao recalls. At the time, her manual was the only guidebook available,
so it was difficult to find comparable education methods.
Fortunately, the 20 children she trained improved and eventually entered
special education schools or conventional primary schools. Since 1985,
500 children have received education and training at Xinyun.
In the beginning, I was too naïve. I thought they could
learn easily, Mao recalls. But that is far from the truth.
I have recorded that one needs to teach a severe child 800 times to
remember a word. Language is very difficult for them, she says.
Though learning such tasks as how to use a toilet requires extreme
patience and effort, the children still make great progress,
explains Mao. If a child learns and has the capability to clean
the table, it is a marvelous advance. In other countries, for a severe
child, no matter how small the progress, he or she receives a graduation
certificate. We agree with that, too. If a child can clean the table,
it is also a way to show his dignity.......
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from the Kurt
Howland His Lost Girl Fantasy
China Art Exchange and Mao Yu-yan
Sessions The 38-Year-Old Virgin
Kurt Yaeger Son of Anarchy
Croizon Quadruple Amputee Swims Four Straits
in the Kurt Yaeger Issue; Ashley Fiolek Off Season, But Still
Racing Around; Geri Jewell Lets Vote for Each Other;
Humor A Day in a Life; Philippe Croizon Quadruple Amputee
Swims Four Straits; Paul Pelland 2 MS, Eat My Dust!; Rick Howland
His Lost Girl Fantasy; Solo-Dx Silence Never Sounded
So Good; The Sessions The 38-Year-Old Virgin; Kurt Yaeger
Son of Anarchy; China Press Art of the Exchange;
Chinese Lessions Shes 86, Teaching From the Heart; DRLC
Enforcing the ADAs; ABILITY's Crossword Puzzle; Events and