Soul Zhang Lu’s Crusade to Create Autism Awareness in China

The Founder of Soul, Zhang Lu gained attention for her unique take on the digital socialization needs of Zoomers since the inception of the platform, and now she is using the very same ingenuity to turn the app into a catalyst for social change, especially autism awareness.

Her interest in this specific cause can be traced back to the goal that led to the creation of Soul App, which is now one of the most popular social platforms for China’s Gen Z. At the heart of it all was Ms. Zhang Lu’s desire to head towards a society where nobody feels lonely or alone. Of course, most people struggle with loneliness at some point in their lives, but the feeling of being left out and being alone is almost constant and magnified in autistic children.

The fact that children of the stars, as autistic children are referred to in China, have to put up with numerous struggles even when it comes to the most mundane aspects of life is what compelled Soul Zhang Lu to champion this particular cause. Added to this was the immense popularity of the Soul platform which has a huge user base of youngsters who are keen on being a part of social change and upliftment. 

Ms. Zhang Lu is on a mission to foster empathy and understanding for autistic individuals and to encourage those with autism to have meaningful connections. Promoting autism awareness is the cornerstone of this mission because ultimately awareness is what will help to create a society that not only tolerates but also celebrates diversity. Also, awareness of the condition, its symptoms, and the challenges faced by those who suffer from it is imperative for acknowledging the unique perspectives and strengths of autistic individuals.

A spectrum disorder, autism manifests in a myriad of ways, which has led to the condition being shrouded in misconceptions and societal stigmas. Soul Zhang Lu believes that fostering awareness is not just about dispelling misconceptions but also about creating a platform for dialogue and education. Undoubtedly, knowledge can be transformative, hence raising awareness is a powerful tool for dismantling barriers.

To comprehend the significance of these endeavors, it is crucial to understand the challenges faced by autistic children in China. Recent studies show that the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is on the rise, with approximately 1 in 100 children being diagnosed with the condition. From difficulties in social interactions to navigating sensory sensitivities, these children encounter multifaceted challenges.

Even communication, a skill most people take for granted, is a complex terrain for many autistic children. The finer nuances of social interactions and the unspoken rules that govern communication pose significant challenges for them, which leads to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Soul Zhang Lu wants to address these challenges and ensure that the voice of every individual, regardless of their position on the autism spectrum, is heard and valued.

So, the Soul App team has undertaken several initiatives aimed at bridging the awareness gap and providing tangible support for autistic children. The latest among these undertakings was titled “Painting Away Loneliness Fur-ever”.

A holistic approach to promoting autism awareness, this unique online-offline event integrated artistic expression with a commitment to societal transformation. The belief that colors and art have the power to transcend the barrier of language and communicate emotions and thoughts is what led to the concept of this one-of-its-kind event. Of course, given its unique approach, “Painting Away Loneliness Fur-ever” was so much more than just an exhibition of art created by autistic children.

Soul collaborated with WABC Shanghai Art Way Foundation for this extraordinary initiative that featured a physical exhibition of the paintings and their digitization for creating merchandise. The proceeds from the sale were pledged to initiatives supporting autistic children.

Earlier for another autism awareness event, Ms. Zhang Lu chose music as the medium of communication and this time too the choice of art was deliberate. Because art provides a non-verbal avenue for communication, it allows autistic children to get past the communication challenges that they normally face and express themselves.

As such, the “Painting Away Loneliness Fur-ever” initiative of Soul Zhang Lu was designed to serve as a catalyst for a broader conversation about autism awareness, challenging stereotypes, and fostering a more inclusive narrative.

Because it brought together the virtual and physical worlds, the initiative essentially created a channel where empathy and understanding converged. Also, the seamless integration of the digital platform into the campaign greatly amplified its reach.

The Soul team designed a dedicated in-app website page to provide users with comprehensive information about the artists, the emotions embedded in their paintings, and the unique perspectives of the young painters. Furthermore, the hashtag #MeltLonelinessTogether encouraged users to actively engage in discussions. In fact, these efforts are what turned an otherwise singular event into an ongoing discussion that nurtured a community keen on actively participating in the dialogue about autism awareness.

Without a doubt, the Painting Away Loneliness Fur-ever campaign met its desired goals, and on its heels comes Soul’s promise to continue the crusade for societal change and autism awareness with many more such campaigns in the future.

After all, lasting change cannot be brought about with a one-off event. It calls for continuous effort and Soul Zhang Lu is committed to nurturing understanding and acceptance for autistic individuals and fostering genuine connections and inclusivity for them. Ultimately, the Soul team is aiming for a future in which conversations around autism go beyond sporadic initiatives and become an integral part of societal discourse.

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