Assistant Professor of Education Helen McCabe is an educator, an innovator and an inspiration, making a difference across the globe. Currently spending her junior leave on sabbatical in China, McCabe is conducting research on autism. With a long history of working on the development of education for children with autism in China, she continues her work with both children and adults with disabilities.
Living in Nanjing, she is working on two research projects, the first of which is an investigation of multiple intervention programs that serve children with autism. She is visiting and researching these programs throughout the country. In her work since 1994, she has come to find a shortage of programs.
“I now realize that there are just not enough people who know what is going on and what is needed,” she says, and notes she is working to change this through her research. “I hope to raise awareness and spark an interest in more and more people to provide information and support to families and programs in China.”
For McCabe's second research project, she is interviewing adults with autism and other developmental disabilities. She wants to develop an understanding of “their lives, experiences, hopes and challenges.” McCabe builds a strong relationship with each individual as well as his or her family or caregiver before interviewing, taking her time to truly get to know each family. Along with interviews, she has also developed two parent support groups to provide a forum for ongoing mutual support among parents of children with disabilities. Her work exceeds merely researching the issues at hand; she establishes programs that consider long term emotional support.
While in China, McCabe is also involved in volunteer work with The Five Project, a non-profit organization that she founded with her sister, Karen McCabe, in December 2006. The organization aims “to create and support educational opportunities for individuals with disabilities and adults with limited literacy in China and the United States” and is named in honor of Zhang Ge, a little girl McCabe met in China in 1992, who loves the number five. McCabe has given talks in Shenzhen and Guangzhou and will also hold parent and teacher lectures/workshops in Chengdu (Sichuan province), Lianyungang (Jiangsu province), Changzhou (also Jiangsu province), and Shanghai.
Her work has inspired those she has met and it is continuing to grow. “There is such a need for improvement in services in China, that I never feel quite right just doing the research without thinking about the benefit,” she says.
McCabe joined the Hobart and William Smith Community in 2004. She holds a Ph.D. from Indiana University where she studied special education and international/comparative education. She also holds a master's degree from Washington University in St. Louis and a bachelor's degree from Middlebury College, both in East Asian Studies.
In the top photo, McCabe is seated with parents and teachers from the Shenzhen Autism Society who have presented her with a banner as a thank you. In the other, McCabe gathered with parents and children following a meeting of an organization called Aihui in Shenzhen, Guangzhou.