Autism Training in China

The following article comes from the International Issues Committee Newsletter. If you’d like additional information about the TASH International Issues Committee or contributing an article to this newsletter, please send an e-mail to Julia White at

Autism Training in China

By Helen McCabe, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

The Five Project, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is committed to strengthening the capacity of families and educational programs in China to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities, with a focus on developmental disabilities such as autism.  The author began volunteering with children with autism in China in 1992, and after many years of seeing the increasing needs of families and professionals, she co-founded The Five Project, Inc. (FIVE) with her sister, Karen McCabe, in 2006.  The author is a member of the TASH International Issues Committee and she and Karen McCabe presented a poster about The Five Project at the 2009 TASH Annual Conference.  FIVE provides a number of services in China, as well as to Chinese speaking families in the US and elsewhere.  These services include: providing training and consultation to autism professionals and parents in China, and to international autism professionals planning to volunteer or work in China; running ongoing support groups in Nanjing; creating and providing written and video information and materials; collaborating with autism organizations in China to provide volunteer opportunities for individuals interested in disability there; and holding events and activities to promote awareness about disability in China.  Because FIVE was founded after years of volunteering and research about autism in China, its autism expertise is especially sought out, from teachers and organizations both in China and the US.

In the past year, FIVE’s team conducted two mutli-day onsite training workshops for teachers and parents in China, one in Nanjing, and the other in Anshan.  FIVE co-founders were accompanied by another trainer and a volunteer, and we worked together to provide intensive hands-on training at programs serving young children with autism.  The focus of the training was on restructuring the environment based on principles from TEACCH methods, as well as on basic instruction using Applied Behavior Analysis (discrete trial teaching).  Our trainers and consultants include individuals certified as a BCBA, as well as with advanced degrees in special education.  In addition, The Five Project has four Board members who are fluent in Mandarin Chinese, and who have all lived, studied and worked in China for many years since 1992.

Co-founder/author Helen McCabe gives a lecture about autism on World Autism Awareness Day in Nanjing, China. (co-founder Karen McCabe far left).

All of our training is provided either directly in Chinese by the co-founders, or provided in English by other trainers but translated into Chinese by the co-founders.  Teachers and parents who have attended FIVE’s training have commented that the training is extremely practical and easy to understand, both because of our ability to provide instruction in Chinese, as well as our deep and longstanding connection with autism work in China.

At the same time as we are receiving increasing requests from autism organizations in China to provide teacher and parent training, we have also been approached by non-Chinese (such as U.S. and European based) organizations who are beginning to do autism training work in China.  We are committed to providing consultations to disability organizations that plan to visit China but have no knowledge of the country or autism context there.  Finally, we have also been approached by large Chinese research institutes and government offices who want to “do autism work,” but are unsure how to start, and we have begun providing consultation to them as well.  In addition, FIVE makes available on its website Chinese language video and written materials about autism (

We welcome consultation requests from professionals and organizations who have opportunities to go to China and want to gain a stronger foundation in knowledge of autism in China before embarking on a volunteer or other trip there.  We receive so many requests for volunteers (ongoing) or training (short-term) from autism organizations in China and so we also welcome inquiries from individuals who perhaps have a plan to go to China and would like to volunteer or work with us. Contact us at or