Helen McCabe, assistant professor of education, recently gave a talk titled “Autism in China” to Harvard Law School students as part of the Harvard Project on Disability (HPOD). According to McCabe, the goal of HPOD is to promote rights for people with disabilities around the world, particularly in China, through research and advocacy. She says HPOD was interested in her perspective because her primary research focus is on people with autism in China, and she and her sister are founders of The Five Project, a not-for-profit dedicated to bringing awareness, information and support to individuals with autism in China. McCabe’s lecture was well received and now HPOD is looking to collaborate with her on research and advocacy work.
Autism was diagnosed in China for the first time in 1982. Since 1992, McCabe has been making biannual trips to China to volunteer in the field of special education and disability. In her first year, she met Zhang Ge, a child with autism who inspired the creation of The Five Project – it was named for the girl’s love for the number five.
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,” published in the International Journal of Disability, Development, and Education (2008) 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,” which appears in the May 2008 volume of Disability and Society.