Helen McCabe, assistant professor of education at HWS, has traveled to China numerous times conducting research (including this summer). It was her first trip with her sister, however, that inspired the development of a charitable organization that hopes to improve conditions for people with disabilities there.
An article in The Patriot Ledger features The Five Project, the charity McCabe and her sister Karen founded 14 years after that visit.
McCabe joined the faculty in 2004 and is an expert on autism and its relation to education, family and social change in the U.S. and China. Her most recent scholarly writings include "The Importance of Parent-to-Parent Support Among Families of Children with Autism in the People's Republic of China" to be published in an upcoming issue of the International Journal of Disability, Development, and Education and "Two Decades of Serving Children with Autism in the People's Republic of China: Achievements and Challenges of a State-run Mental Health Center" appears in the May 2008 volume of Disability and Society.
The article about the formation of the Five Project and its work appears below.
The Patriot Ledger
“Local charity helps China tackle autism”
Fred Hanson• staff writer • June 26, 2008
On their first trips to China in 1992, Helen and Karen McCabe met Zhang Ge, an 8-year-old girl with autism.
Helen McCabe, an assistant professor of education at Hobart and William Smith Colleges
in New York state, would frequently travel to China to do research, her sister Karen said.
"Over the years, she kept meeting more kids with autism, and she realized they didn't have any services for kids with autism or any disabilities," Karen McCabe said.
After years of talking about it, the sisters formed The Five Project 18 months ago. The purpose of the charity is to bring information about autism to families and educators in China as well as to help develop services for people with autism and other disabilities there.
Karen McCabe said that, unlike the United States, there are few special education programs in China's public schools. There are some private programs, which charge tuition.
"A lot of them are doing the best they can with what they have, which isn't a lot," Karen McCabe said.
Since both sisters speak Chinese, "we have an ability to help people that we wouldn't have in other countries," said Karen McCabe, who also works for the Randolph Community Partnership.
Based for now at Karen McCabe's Fitch Terrace home, the charity has translated some materials on autism, a developmental disability that impairs social interaction and communication, and distributed them in China.
They've held workshops for parents and caregivers as well as teachers in Beijing and Nanjing, and have also formed a support groups for families of people with autism and another for young adults with mental illness and their families.
Karen McCabe said they hope to raise enough money eventually to take other American experts in special education to China and allow Chinese educators to receive training in the United States.
"It's one thing for us to explain it," Karen McCabe said. "It's another thing for them to come over here and see it."
The Five Project gets its name from Zhang Ge's love of the number. Now 24, she works shelving books in the the library of a community center in Nanjing.
A yard sale to benefit the project will be held from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at 1 Priscilla Ave. in Scituate. The rain dates are the following weekend.
More information is available at www.thefiveproject.org.
Fred Hanson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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In the photo above, the McCabe sisters (far right) pose with the head of the autism program, Karen's husband, Peter, and the principal of the special education school.