FIVE's inspiration is Zhang Ge, a young woman with autism in Nanjing, China PRC. FIVE's co-Founder and Executive Director, Helen McCabe, met Zhang Ge in 1992 when Helen was 22 and Zhang Ge was 8 years old. Over the years, Zhang Ge and Helen have remained important parts of each other's lives. Helen and many of FIVE's board members have met Zhang Ge and other individuals with autism and other disabilities in China and realized the need for more services to help families.
FIVE is a collaborative effort between the founders and board members who have career backgrounds and personal interest in adult literacy, special education and mental health. Founders and Board Members wish to help meet the need in China (and for Chinese-speaking families in the United States) for individuals with disabilities and special educational needs. With that in mind, The Five Project, Inc. was incorporated in Randolph, Massachusetts, USA in December 2006.
People often ask why we do this work in China. Unlike in the United States, where special education is mandated by law, and where there are numerous educational and vocational opportunities supported by government and private agencies, in China there is a serious need for information and services for children, adolescents and adults with autism and other disabilities. For example, autism was only first diagnosed in China in 1982 and awareness is only beginning. Because of a lack of awareness about autism and other disabilities (including mental illness and cognitive disabilities), many families still face school rejection, social discrimination, and a lack of any type of support.
In order to help address these problems, FIVE conducts workshops in China geared toward family members and professionals working with individuals with autism. FIVE also strives to raise awareness and support of people with disabilities by holding large, public events as well as smaller neighborhood events. FIVE also provides written materials on this website and through mailings. Two Peer and Family Support Groups for individuals and families of individuals with mental retardation, mental illness, and autism have been running since January 2008. Because the services offered by FIVE are offered in Chinese, FIVE also assists Chinese families in MA, USA in person and in other parts of the USA and abroad by mail.
Another question we hear is "Why is it called 'The Five Project'?" The name was chosen in honor of Zhang Ge who, like many individuals with autism, has a deep love and interest in certain things--in this case, the number five!