Hanen More Than Words Program: Empowering Parents

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Between October 2016 and February 2017, three families dedicated 12 Saturdays with Hanen-certified speech-language pathologists Yi Lien and Chihui Yong at LIH Olivia’s Place to complete the More Than Words ®: Hanen program for parents of children with autism spectrum disorder and other social communication problems.

Hanen’s More Than Words® is a program developed by speech therapists with expertise in the field of communication disorders and backed by extensive research. It empowers parents to help their child with social-communication difficulty or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) reach three goals:

1 Improved social communication and back-and-forth interactions
2 Improved play skills
3 Improved imitation skills

Through the program, parents reported the following improvements in their child:

 Increased joint-attention skills
 Improved response (to parents), increased interaction and imitation skills (verbal/actions)
 Improvement in play skills

With regards to the program’s approach, one Shanghai parent reported:

“The trainers guide us to analyze and think of other ways to achieve the (communication/play) goals targeted. They used reflective questions to help us think. Unlike other programs, we were not given a template to copy, but were equipped with the strategies to help us interact/communicate better with our children.”

It was truly an exciting journey witnessing parents applying Hanen strategies to facilitate more back-and-forth interaction with their child, and hearing them generating their own creative ideas to communicate better with their child.

Due to the success of our workshop, we have decided to offer another it again. The workshop will be held in Mandarin Chinese. We would like to invite parents or teachers of children with social-communication difficulty or autism spectrum disorder to a free orientation session to learn more about the program.

Date : March 25th (Saturday)
Time : 2.30- 4.30pm
Venue : 41 YongJia Road, Office # 503
Contact Number : 021-5405-0058/59

For more information, please call LIH Olivia’s Place Shanghai or email us.

LIH Olivia’s Place Teams Training on Autism Assessment “Gold Standard”

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Beth Rutkowski, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist & Psychology Team Lead, Shanghai

Beth Rutkowski, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist & Psychology Team Lead, Shanghai

LIH Olivia’s Place has always worked to meet the needs of the families they serve. Recently, questions about autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have been among the most common. LIH Olivia’s Place has a strong team of clinicians with training and experience administering a range of assessment measures designed to diagnose ASD. This includes the tool widely considered the “gold standard” of autism diagnosis- the ADOS-2. LIH Olivia’s Place has consistently employed specialists trained in the ADOS-2 over the last six years. However, as demand increases for high quality autism assessment throughout China, LIH Olivia’s Place has responded by increasing the number of trained professionals and the depth of our training program, in turn increasing our ca-pacity to serve families by obtaining clinical information using a widely validated tool.

The Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, Second Edition (ADOS-2), is a partially structured observation of children and adults referred for ASD concerns. These observations are “standardized,” or held to a universal quality established through an extensive range of testing and confirmation.

The ADOS-2 has five modules, only one of which is administered at a given time. The determination of which module is administered is based on two factors- the individual’s verbal level and his or her age. Verbal ability can range from no words to fluent speech. The test can be administered to children as young as 12 months through adulthood. Each ADOS-2 module consists of talking or play activities using the same standardized materials every time it is administered. The algorithms used to diagnose autism spectrum disorders through the ADOS-2 have been consistently demonstrated to accurately identify autism spectrum disorders in toddlers, children, teens, and adults.

The ADOS-2 is widely used around the world and is the best fit for our team as we provide diagnostic assessment for children from China as well as expatriate children. Therefore, both Chinese and English speaking clinicians are presently being trained to administer the ADOS-2. LIH Olivia’s Place is utilizing the training system established by WPS, the publisher who has developed and distributes the ADOS system. The training is extensive and includes studying the administration of the modules, practice with the tool, and experience with scoring video examples of cases.

In December 2016, training on the ADOS-2 began with our Shanghai team. It will continue in Beijing, Shenzhen, and Kunming during early 2017. As individual clinicians complete the training, they will administer the assessments and work together to ensure the most accurate and comprehensive diagnoses possible. The ADOS-2 will be utilized alongside a variety of other tools from an inter-disciplinary team including psychologists, behavioral specialists, speech therapists, occupa-tional therapists, and physical therapists. With our increasing levels of skill and expertise, our teams continue to set a high standard for diagnosis and treatment of developmental disorders.

Dr. Beth Rutkowski is the Lead Psychologist at LIH Olivia’s Place Shanghai. You are welcome to contact her directly at or the Shanghai LIH Olivia’s Place team at (8621) 5404-0058.

China Hosts Renown Autism Event

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2015 1107 -1On November 6th- 8th, 2015 China hosted the first ever Regional International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) Conference in Shanghai. Many well-known organizations and universities, such as Autism Speaks and Duke University, have been working with the Chinese government and universities with the goal of working collaboratively to improve the lives of people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families as well to support and advance ASD research. The conference was a huge success as it allowed many scientists, clinicians, educators and parents from around the world to meet and exchange knowledge with one another and encompass global perspectives about ASD. Five clinicians from LIH Olivia’s Place, one from each discipline, created an e-poster on using an inter-disciplinary team approach for screening, diagnosis and early intervention of ASDs. They discussed the assessment and interventions highlighted with many well- known researchers, clinicians, local educators, and parents. Fengyi Kuo, Occupational Therapist, also presented an e-poster on transition and therapy services for adolescents and young adults with ASD. An LIH Olivia’s Place high school intern, Tiffany Lu from Dulwich College Suzhou, also participated in many informative professional sessions that this conference had to offer. In addition, the clinicians and other participants attended lectures on a variety of topics, many of which highlighted the huge progress that is being made worldwide in developing effective interventions and assessment measures for children with ASD.


LIH Olivia's Place IMFAR Delegation (left to right); Lis Ringrose, Chief Therapy Officer; Laura Lofy, Psychology Lead Beijing; Jamie Fanelli, Behavior & Learning Support Lead; Sophia Gurracino, Speech-Language Lead Shanghai; Fengyi Kuo, Occupational Therapist

LIH Olivia’s Place IMFAR Delegation (left to right); Lis Ringrose, Chief Therapy Officer; Laura Lofy, Psychology Lead Beijing; Jamie Fanelli, Behavior & Learning Support Lead; Sophia Gurracino, Speech-Language Lead Shanghai; Fengyi Kuo, Occupational Therapist

For Jamie Fanelli, Behavior & Learning Support Lead at LIH Olivia’s Place, the conference was an incredibly rewarding experience; she reflected that it  “reinforced why I personally love my job so much— the opportunity to move forward in improving the standard of therapy in China and positively impact quality of life for so many individuals with ASD and special needs. It was a true pleasure to meet and develop relationships with several of the world’s leading researchers in ASD and even more so with local educators, physicians and parents. All of whom are extremely dedicated to improving the lives of children with ASD and their families here in China.”


One of the more memorable experiences for Sophia Guarracino, Speech-Language Therapy Lead at LIH Olivia’s Place Shanghai, was listening to a parent question-answer forum. During this time, parents were able to ask any questions to a panel of presenters. Most of the parents’ stories were heartfelt, sharing feelings of being overwhelmed, helpless, and not knowing where to turn for knowledge to better understand their child’s condition. For Sophia, hearing parents’ stories about their children being asked not return to school “made it so clear that there is such as a need of more education and support for both Chinese families and China’s educational system, to better help serve the needs of these children with autism. That is why it is inspiring that LIH Olivia’s Place can help support this need as it continues to develop and spread the expertise in this field.”

Clinician Profile: Pengsi Shen, BCBA

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Pengsi Shen, BCBA, Behavior Analyst

Pengsi Shen, BCBA, Behavior Analyst

Pengsi Shen is a Behavior Analyst with our Behavior and Learning Support team at Beijing LIH Olivia’s Place. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Applied Behavior Analysis from Teachers College, Columbia University (US). She has worked with preschoolers with disabilities in self-contained classrooms, assessing students, selecting evidence-based programs, and implementing intervention and behavioral plans. She has also worked with early elementary students with or without disabilities in inclusive classroom settings, providing interventions for students who lack certain developmental/social skills using scientific protocols, providing group and class-wide instruction, and implementing both individual and class-wide positive behavior plans to facilitate learning and love for learning. Pengsi works with children in both Mandarin and English.


How long have you been in China?

I was born here, raised here, and received most of my education here too. I left China three years ago to earn a master’s degree in New York, and came back again to China in July 2015.


Why did you choose to work at LIH Olivia’s Place?

I love to work with kids with special needs, and want to learn more about different professionals that also work with the same population.  I would also like to keep up to a te with the latest research and practice from well-trained foreign therapists, but still be able to work with local children. LIH Olivia’s Place is a place where therapists (from all over the world) of all disciplines work closely together for the same goal: help each kid (regardless of their nationality) to reach their full potential.


Why did you choose your field?

The truth is by accident! I had never heard about applied behavioral analysis (ABA) before and had little experience working with kids with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) since there are no ABA degree programs in China yet and most children here with ASD have been excluded from general educational classrooms. However it is the best decision I’ve made so far in my life.


What are some of the most rewarding experiences you have had in your chosen profession?

(1) When a child starts looking into my eyes, with affection. It is really hard to get many of the children I work with to make eye contact.

(2) When all of sudden a child runs to me, gives me a hug, and runs away.

(3) When parents tell me that my suggestions have worked so well with their child.


What’s your favorite thing about living in China and working at LIH Olivia’s Place?

I can talk to my family without lag time and visit them more often.  I am so excited for this coming Chinese New Year in February, since it will be my first New Year with family after three years.  I love to talk to different therapists at LIH Olivia’s Place, and get to work with children with a variety of needs.


What would you like to be doing in 5 years time?

I would still be working with kids with special needs, and working with parents and teachers too. In 5 years, hopefully people will be better educated and can embrace kids of all kinds, acknowledge them, and love them unconditionally through our joint efforts.  Also I hope for a flexible work schedule to enjoy life with my family.


Intensive Training in Evaluation and Diagnosis of ASD in Kunming

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by Alice Fok-Trela, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist at Olivia's Place

by Alice Fok-Trela, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist at Olivia’s Place

Rehabilitation services, which in China include speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy, are growing fields. Over the past few years, more resources have been devoted to improving the quality of rehabilitation services for the local Chinese population. Olivia’s Place Pediatric Therapy Center has been instrumental in providing professionals to support the development of rehabilitation services in China.

This was the purpose of the trip to Kunming, China, from February 1st to 3rd, 2015. During these three days, I provided intensive training on conducting comprehensive evaluations for autism spectrum disorder to a group of therapists, doctors, and special education teachers. We discussed how doctors currently assess for and diagnose autism spectrum disorder, and engaged in some terrific discussions on how the Chinese method of evaluation and assessment differs from a more Western approach. Several assessment instruments commonly used in America were demonstrated. Cultural suitability of the instruments was also discussed. This point was particularly salient during our discussion on interpreting the results. It was a learning experience for all involved to dialogue about how behaviors that may be viewed as maladaptive or problematic may be viewed in a different light in a different culture.

On the second and third days of training, participants observed full assessments conducted in Chinese. We then held a collaborative discussion to consider the results and determine a diagnosis. In a sense, this discussion was really an interdisciplinary team approach as the participants came from different professional backgrounds. For example, having the input of physical therapists, medical doctors, and special education teachers allowed us to review and consider the client from multiple therapeutic perspectives and generated several lively discussions.

Finally, it was fascinating to discuss pertinent recommendations. Many of the recommendations that would be appropriate in a Western country cannot be implemented in China. Other recommendations are simply not culturally relevant. We worked together as a team to identify more culturally relevant recommendations and to consider how to creatively adapt good recommendations to the Chinese culture.

One of the main takeaways is that conducting evaluations and assessments for autism spectrum disorder is a culturally-sensitive endeavor. As such, it becomes extremely important for clinicians to have a thorough understanding of the client’s cultural and family background, to be hesitant in pathologizing behaviors, and to work collaboratively with local therapists and medical professionals to validate diagnoses and recommendations. Utilizing a collaborative approach allows the best of both Western and Eastern worlds to be combined to ensure treatment is in the best interest of the client.

Alice Fok-Trela, PsyD, is a registered clinical psychologist from Canada. She holds PsyD and Masters degrees in Clinical Psychology from Azusa Pacific University in California, and a BA in Business Administration from the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, Canada. Dr. Fok-Trela has worked in a variety of settings including pediatric therapy centers, schools, community counseling centers, and hospitals in Canada and the U.S. She has specific training in assessing and treating children with severe emotional and behavioral disorders. One of her special interests is working with cross-cultural issues, including immigrants and expatriates. Language: English, Cantonese, Mandarin