Journey of a thousand miles begins with new shoes

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the name given for a group of developmental disorders that include a wide range of symptoms, skills, and levels of disability.

Autism training 2016

Located in Guangdong Province on a southern tip of the Chinese mainland, Shenzhen has more than 20,000 children diagnosed with a range of developmental disorders.

Shenzhen Kangning Hospital, the city’s only public mental health hospital, also provides assessment, diagnosis and treatment for children with ASD from across Guangdong Province.

In response to Shenzhen’s growing imperative to support children diagnosed with ASD and their families, the University of Melbourne’s Department of Psychiatry and Kangning Hospital launched an International Autism Training and Research Centre in December 2015.

On 22-25 November 2016, the joint Department of Psychiatry and Kangning Hospital hosted more than 100 mental health professionals, teachers and parents at a Parenting Workshop, supported by the Shenzhen Municipal Government and Shenzhen Disabled Person’s Federation. Expertly led by Associate Professor Sandra Radovini, Director of the Department of Psychiatry ’s Mindful Centre and Ms Frances Saunders,  Mindful‘s State-wide Autism Coordinator, the workshop provided practical, evidence based skills and information to improve quality of life for children diagnosed with ASD.

Participants learned ways to help parents understand and manage their child’s often very challenging behaviours and most importantly how to best promote their child’s independence and quality of life.

In her summary, at the conclusion of the intensive four day program, the Director of the Child and Adolescent Department of Kangning Hospital, Dr Jianping Lu, said: “This workshop provided our participants with a way to collect and shape previously fragmented information into a logical and systematic approach to help parents. The workshop was well-prepared and thoughtfully presented by the two Department of Psychiatry presenters, the incredibly fantastic Associate Professor Radovini and Frances.”

A moving tribute came from a parent attending the workshop: “Thank you Australian trainers, you have brought us a new way to positively think about our child. Now we have some hope and can see a brighter, different future.”  

Finally on behalf of all participants and the Kangning Hospital, Dr Lu presented the two University of Melbourne workshop leaders each with a pair of new shoes.  “We hope that by wearing these shoes,” Dr Lu explained, “that you are able to come more frequently and keep bringing to Shenzhen the most advanced skills and knowledge in ASD.”