McCabe in Boston Globe – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
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McCabe in Boston Globe

The Five Project, an organization formed by Helen McCabe, assistant professor of education at HWS, and her sister, was recently the subject of an article in The Boston Globe. Formed after McCabe met an autistic 8-year-old girl while studying in China, the Five Project seeks to help those with autism in China.

“It’s about wanting a whole bunch of people to work together on this,” explains McCabe. The organization is run from her sister’s home in Randolph, Mass., and was named for the Chinese girl’s love of the number five.

The article, which stated the organization is hosting its first fundraising dinner, noted how McCabe “travels to China about twice a year, where she holds workshops on such topics as teaching strategies for parents and teachers, alternative communication strategies, sensory integration issues, and the importance of early intervention and inclusion.” It goes on to say the Five Project is creating a training DVD in Chinese to be given to families and professionals, and has started family support groups in China.

McCabe joined the faculty in 2004 and is an expert on autism and its relation to education, family and social change in the U.S. and China. Her most recent scholarly writings include “The Importance of Parent-to-Parent Support Among Families of Children with Autism in the People’s Republic of China” to be published in an upcoming issue of the International Journal of Disability, Development, and Education and “Two Decades of Serving Children with Autism in the People’s Republic of China: Achievements and Challenges of a State-run Mental Health Center” appears in the May 2008 volume of Disability and Society.

The full article appears below.


The Boston Globe
“Autism organization is giving voice to families in China”
Wendy Chow • Globe Staff • October 2, 2008

Sixteen years ago, a 22-year-old Scituate native studying in China was introduced to an autistic 8-year-old girl. The relationship that blossomed not only helped the girl become more independent, but ignited a movement to improve educational opportunities for the disabled in China.

When Helen McCabe, the American student, met Zhang Ge in 1992, the girl couldn’t carry on a conversation and had limited self-care skills. She could, however, identify Chinese characters and say which page they were on in the dictionary.

McCabe volunteered to help her learn life skills, and through repetitive training, Zhang Ge made great progress. Now 24, she works shelving books in a library in Nanjing. In turn, the girl’s parents learned methods to cope with her challenges and they now volunteer to help other families.

After realizing that ignorance about autism in China was compounding the children’s problems, McCabe switched from East Asian studies to earn a doctoral degree in special education. She is now an assistant professor of education at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York and president of the Five Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping those with autism in China.

The Five Project runs out of the Randolph home of Karen McCabe, Helen’s twin sister. Both sisters are fluent in Mandarin Chinese. The name for the group was inspired by Zhang Ge’s love of the number five.

Awareness and understanding of autism in China is way behind that in the United States. “A lot of families still face school rejection, social discrimination, and lack any type of support,” said Karen McCabe, who also works as educational counselor at the Randolph Community Partnership, which conducts English classes for immigrants.

China is unlike the United States, where special education is mandated and there are numerous organizations that offer services for those with autism, she said. “There’s not a lot of information on autism in China.”

Helen McCabe travels to China about twice a year, where she holds workshops on such topics as teaching strategies for parents and teachers, alternative communication strategies, sensory integration issues, and the importance of early intervention and inclusion.

While in China, the organization noticed that many people were videotaping the workshops. In the hopes of stopping people from profiting from the sale of videos to families desperate for information, the organization is creating a training DVD in Chinese to be given away to families and professionals.

The organization also started family support groups in China. Helen and Chinese colleagues had to brainstorm for a suitable translation for the phrase “parent support group,” since the concept is still somewhat of a novelty in China, said Karen. At one of the support group meetings, she said, “a parent said this is the first time she felt free to talk about anything.”

The Five Project is holding its first fund-raising dinner Oct. 25 at the River Club in Scituate. Money will pay for such things as group outings to parks, bus fares for needy families to attend support group meetings, or to send specialists to offer training in rural areas in China.

Tickets, which cost $50, can be purchased by calling 617-413-0620 or e-mailing thefiveproject@yahoo.com. For more information on the organization, visit thefiveproject.org.

Contact Wendy Chow at wchow@globe.com.