Guangzhou: Battling cerebral palsy

By Mercy Liu

Zhang Xiao Hua, 20, just graduated from Guangzhou Rehabilitation Campus School. Because of cerebral palsy, she has to face more difficulties than others of her peers.

Cerebral palsy inflicts Zhang with scoliosis, which means she cannot get her back straight. Her right foot has a congenital malformation, so she can only stand on her left foot and one right toe, which means she has difficulty standing and walking without support.

Like other students, every Thursday when she meets with volunteers can be the most exciting part of Zhang’s whole week at school. Student volunteers from several universities in Guangzhou came to accompany the children to make cookies and cupcakes or to create handicrafts.

The Chinese public usually confuses cerebral palsy with mental retardation. Peope think the children with cerebral palsy will face mainly intellectual difficulties. On the contrary, various body movements are the most difficult for them. Therefore, there are armrests and wheelchairs almost everywhere in the school. Based on the different level of cerebral palsy, the symptoms vary. Some kids can hardly walk without support; some can barely speak although they know exactly what they want to say, and others cannot straighten out their arms.

The deputy headmaster, Ai Qiu Xiang, has been working at the school for 12 years. According to Ai, most of the cerebral palsy children don’t fail behind in school because of intellectual problems. ‘It’s hard to change congenital physical defects, so what we are trying to do is to develop their intelligence,’ Ai said.

Some students can do more after graduation than most people expect. Li Wei Wei is a clever boy who is only 13 years old. He is good at math. A college student volunteer, Lin Xi Huan, who always took care of Li, competed with him in solving math problems, “I never count as fast as he does on questions of addition and subtraction within 1,000, and he can make his favorite chocolate cupcakes completely by himself,” Xi said.

Mei Ying Na, 19, can do online shopping and micro online business. For example, some small cosmetic brand may want to advertise in the market of young people, and they will hire some young student agency to help.

Mei became one of them, and she regularly posted advertisements on Moments in Wechat, which is the most popular social media platform in China. Mei also uses Inke, a popular Chinese mobile live-streaming platform app to show how to make zongzi, a traditional Chinese food. ‘
According to National Bureau of Statistics of China, in 2015, China had 2,053 schools for special education. From 2007 to 2011, the funds for special education rose from ¥316 million to ¥790.44 million. The numbers of new students enrolled in special school stood at 83,000 in 2015, an increase of nearly 30 percent in only two years. The increase shows the development of Chinese education for the disabled.

However, the reality reflects that it is still not enough. Although the special schools are tuition-free, many students still have many other difficulties. Zhang lives near the Guangzhou Baiyun airport, which is over 35 kilometers away from the school. She used to live in the school for six days a week and went to live with her aunt on the day off. But Zhang’s parent got divorced, so she hasn’t been able to live with them, and her parents only came to see her twice over the past three years. Now she plans to live with her mother and two brothers after graduation.

Zhang also worries about her job. She tried to do micro online business as Mei did, but the salary was too low. “I don’t want to always rely on my mom and brothers; I want to earn money by myself,” Zhang said.

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