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Chinese school gives autistic youth a voice

STORY: This music school is giving Chinese youth with autism a voice

Location: Beijing, China

23-year-old Zu Wenbao joined the Beijing school in 2020

[Zu Wenbao, 23-year-old musician]

"I like to play the piano. I also like playing the drums, singing, playing the piano. I like to play basketball."

14 million people in China have autism, but many here know little about the disorder

Despite laws to ensure the integration of people with autism, experts say educational support remains lacking

Autism meant Zu struggled to fit in at school or among other young people in his village

All that changed when he started learning music free of charge at Chen Shensi's Studio

Chen hopes he can help his students find a way to earn a living

[ Zhao Guorong, Zu Wenbao's mother]

"Chen Shensi said if Zu can earn some money from playing music, it will be much better for him in the future. Chen is helping the Star Kids band to look for opportunities to practice and perform more often. I don’t know whether there will be any chance to perform commercially and maybe earn some money from it. I usually ask him to practice more, and I try to encourage him more, because when he practices more, he will be able to earn money himself and buy the food he likes."

[Chen Shensi, Founder / Chen Music]

"I feel very grateful to them. In some ways, teaching them has also been a form of therapy for me too. There's no point if we lose our patience with them. But at the beginning, I was very impatient. In fact, I even lost my temper with them. I was thinking, 'Why is it like this?' I'm naturally a bad tempered person and get angry about things easily. But after a while, I realize there's no point getting angry, they are not even bothered about me. No matter how angry you get, their state stays the same, it doesn't affect them. Over time, I realize there's nothing to get angry about. Since I have decided to do this, it's my job to think of solutions. And so, they have honed my character at the same time. Now, I'm able to teach anyone."