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A baking class with autistic youths

A baking class with autistic youths


By Zhou Minxi

It looked like an ordinary baking class. A group of teenagers dressed in chef outfits were attentively preparing the dough on the counter. One of the boys, Boya, agreed to team up with CGTN's Zhao Wenjing. A moment later, with childlike delight, he proudly declared that his cookie-making skills were better than our reporter's.

Another boy coyly told the crew his name was Zhang Shuwei. But after Zhao introduced herself, Shuwei repeated her words. It appeared that he did not understand the meaning of their conversation. That's when it became apparent that these youngsters were different.

They suffer from autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a developmental disability characterized by difficulties with communication and social interactions. With around 1 percent of the world's population born with autism, it is estimated that more than 13 million people in China suffer from the congenital condition, including 2 million children between ages 0 to 14. According to the China Disabled People's Federation, it is the most prevalent mental disorder in the country.

The baking class was part of a non-profit program organized by the Beijing Association for Rehabilitation of Autistic Children (BARAC) to help young patients build life skills and self-worth through fun and creative activities. The Autistic or Artistic? Art (AOAart) studio in Beijing's 798 Art District has been hosting regular exhibitions and sales of artwork created by autistic children since April 2, 2008, the first Autism Awareness Day.

The art exhibition, known as "Art of the Innocent," was the idea of Chinese-Japanese Rika Ishihara, who believes autistic children's simple and solitary inner world enables them to express their creativity in surprising ways.

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