Inspirational autism champion celebrated

6th October 2020

An award winning interpreter and campaigner who has made it her mission to change the perception of autism among the Chinese community has again been recognised for her achievements.

Hazel Lim, a mother of three living in Swansea, received the Community Champion Award as well as the overall title of Womenspire Champion 2020 having impressed the judges with her warmth and unwavering commitment to her cause.

Born and raised in Malaysia and of Malaysian-Chinese heritage, Hazel had moved to London and been working as an interpreter for 15 years when her eldest son was diagnosed with autism in 2015. Eager to support him as much as possible, she moved with her husband and three children to Swansea so that she was able to study for an MSc in Autism and related Conditions at the Swansea University.

Having decided to make a permanent home in the city, Hazel founded the Chinese Autism Support Group, when she realised there was no support available – even nationally – for Chinese families managing with the condition.

Since then she has worked tirelessly to engage with Chinese families who have autistic children, who were almost hiding themselves away due to the language barriers and the cultural stigma associated with autism.

Her impact has been significant to both her local community and those trying to understand autism in the Chinese cultural context all over the world. In 2019, Hazel produced the first English and Chinese Bilingual Autism booklet in the UK. It provided professionals with an introductory understanding of the many cultural barriers, in order to more effectively assist them to support their Chinese clients. The booklet has had a major impact – shared internationally, and is now a vital resource for Autistic Chinese communities.

Hazel’s work has led to her becoming a finalist in the UK Autism Hero Awards and a winner of the ‘someone who changed my life’ trophy at the National Autistic Society’s Autism Professionals Awards 2020.

I was delighted to hear I was a Womenspire finalist. I believe that the work I do is important and is really having a positive impact, so it’s an honour that Chwarae Teg think so too.

“Culture and language can be a barrier but the Chinese Autism Support Group, which I run under the Chinese in Wales Association, provides the help that parents and children need.

“For too long, Chinese parents, mothers in particular, of children with autism have lived with a misinterpretation of the facts around autism and a fear of being disconnected from the community.

“Understanding that autism is not a disease and that there is information and support out there has brought with it a sense of acceptance for parents and changed their lives and the lives of autistic children for the better.

“I hope in future to be able to reach out to other towns and cities in the UK so that more groups like this can be set up. By breaking down these cultural barriers we are ensuring that young people with autism are given the right support to fulfil their potential.

Hazel Lim
Community Champion Finalist, Womenspire20 Awards

Hazel epitomises Womenspire. She has faced significant barriers but continued with her work to ensure that children and families in the Chinese community who are faced with autism are given the information and support they need.

“Hazel’s place as Womenspire Champion is a reflection of her genuine desire to help others and her determination to ensure that no child or family affected by autism suffers in silence. She doesn’t see herself as remarkable, but she is a real role model and a saviour to many. She works tirelessly to get the right information and support out there to those that need it, with a clear focus on improving the lives of families affected by autism and enabling children to reach their full potential.

Cerys Furlong
Chief Executive, Chwarae Teg