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Early Intervention for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders in China: A Family Perspective

Su, Xueyun PhD; Long, Toby PhD, PT, FAPTA; Chen, Lianjun PhD; Fang, Junming PhD

doi: 10.1097/IYC.0b013e3182802006
Original Study

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) were first reported in China in 1982. Since then, autism and other related disorders have been recognized by both the public and professionals. The importance of early intervention for children with ASD is becoming more accepted throughout China. A survey was designed to investigate the status of early intervention for children with ASD in China from a family system perspective. One hundred fifty-six parents of children with ASD from Shanghai, Beijing, and Shandong completed the survey. Results found that 93.2% (n = 141) of the children were identified with symptoms of ASD before age 3. There was a sizable delay between the time when symptoms were first identified and the families sought a diagnosis and the time when the diagnosis was made. Annual family income and age of the child when symptoms were first identified contributed to the delay in diagnosis. It was also found that more than half of the participants had positive beliefs related to ASD and more than 99% of the participants held positive attitudes toward early intervention. Almost 90% (89.7%) of the participants reported needing more financial support, and 100% indicated the need for appropriate services for their children with ASD. Family income level and maternal education level significantly influence family resources. Seventy-five percent of the families reported that intervention expenses and lack of social acceptance contributed to stress. Thirty percent of the participants reported that disagreements among family members about the child with ASD further contribute to the stress experienced. Implications of the findings are discussed in relationship to the evolving Chinese early intervention system of care.

Department of Special Education, East China Normal University, Shanghai, China (Drs Su, Chen, and Fang); and Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development, Washington, DC (Dr Long).

Correspondence: Toby Long, PhD, PT, FAPTA, Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development, 3300 Whitehaven St. NW, Suite 3300, Box 571485, Washington, DC 20057 (

This research was supported in part by a grant from the Shanghai Pujiang Program, Scientific Research Foundation for the Returned Overseas Chinese Scholars, State Education Ministry, and Ministry of Education project of humanities and social sciences (project no.12YJC880090).

The authors thank Wei Wang, Yutian Lei, and Yi Liu for their assistance in data collection and input.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

©2013Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.