Mei Ye is the mother of an autistic son, and the wife of a self-diagnosed autistic husband. She is trained in multiple engineering fields, and works as a system software engineer for the computer industry. Mei grew up in what she describes as the ascetic pre-industrial era of the 70s and 80s in China. She has spent most of her adulthood in the States as an observer and thinker.
Elesia: Autism is often stigmatized in American culture. Do you feel autism is a stigma or taboo in Chinese culture? If so, why?
Mei: Yes, Most Chinese have little knowledge of autism. They most likely consider it as a mental disorder. Family pride is deep-rooted in Chinese culture.
Elesia: Have you ever felt misunderstood by family members or friends who expect your son to behave in a specific (or traditional) way?
Mei: Yes. Years ago, a Chinese woman scolded my son--who was then four years old--for not sharing with her two-year-old at a party.
Elesia: How did this make you feel?
Mei: I forgave her ignorance. I discussed autism with her. She is an understanding person. Years later, I heard that her son was diagnosed with autism too. The rate of autism occurrence is indeed astonishing.
Elesia: Is there anything that frustrates you in regards to how your son might be perceived by other Chinese people?
Mei: I am a person who does not care about other people's perceptions. I have jumped many hurdles in my life. I am always learning, thinking, and looking for my spiritual and intellectual allies.
Elesia: Does anyone else in your family have a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Condition? If so, have they expressed similar cultural struggles?
Mei: My cousin in China observed autistic behaviors in her two-year-old. Her family is in dismay and denial. There are very few specialists in China who can diagnose autism.
Elesia: In general, do you feel most Chinese parents are likely to look into further diagnostic testing if either they or others (e.g. teachers, relatives) notice atypical development in their child?
Mei: Chinese care deeply about the wellness of their offspring. Chinese people are good followers. If one of their respected relatives or friends sets a good example, they will follow. So it is very important for families like mine to be open and honest on this issue.
Elesia: Is there anything else you would like to share?
Mei: I am passionate in finding the best education model to grow and harvest the giftedness part of autism.