News / Health

Grassroots Push for Vietnam Policy on Autism

A boy relaxes with lights in a 'Snoezelen' room during yoga classes for children who typically have autism, brain injuries or developmental disabilities, in Lima, Peru, Jan. 27, 2012.A boy relaxes with lights in a 'Snoezelen' room during yoga classes for children who typically have autism, brain injuries or developmental disabilities, in Lima, Peru, Jan. 27, 2012.
x
A boy relaxes with lights in a 'Snoezelen' room during yoga classes for children who typically have autism, brain injuries or developmental disabilities, in Lima, Peru, Jan. 27, 2012.
A boy relaxes with lights in a 'Snoezelen' room during yoga classes for children who typically have autism, brain injuries or developmental disabilities, in Lima, Peru, Jan. 27, 2012.
Marianne Brown
Many countries around the world mark April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day, an event adopted by the United Nations in 2007 to bring global attention to autism spectrum disorder [ASD] and autism. Vietnam held its first symposium on autism last month, which many hope will lead to improved government policy on education and health guidelines for mental health disorders. It's part of the effort by parents of autistic children to push for improved care.

Despite the increasing number of special education schools in Vietnam, the country, like many in Southeast Asia, has no national policy on how to treat autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

ASD describes a group of complex brain development disorders that affect tens of millions of people around the globe, and is characterized by difficulties in social interaction and communication.

Many of those afflicted do not have access to adequate treatment. According to Dr. Nguyen Thi Hoang Yen, vice director of the Vietnam National Institute of Educational Sciences, however, there has been a growing understanding of the condition among health professionals in Vietnam in the last few years.
 
“I confess that many people with autism were in the hospital and they considered them like mad people or very severe mental disorder. In comparison with now, I think more people realize about the autism so they don’t see the autism like a pure mental disorder,” said Yen.

Parents step up

Yen said the change is partly because of improvements in the health care system, especially for children, and access to research done in other countries. But the driving force has been parents.

In March, scientists from the United States, along with officials from the ministries of health, education and labor, took part in a symposium that many people hope will be the first step toward setting a national framework to help people with ASD.

Yen says the symposium was largely initiated by the Hanoi Club for Parents of Children with Autism. The club arranges workshops with local and foreign specialists and maintains a support network for parents.

“In the year 2002, we established the first parents club for the children with autism in Hanoi. At that time were only 40 families come together with some professionals in special education and now it’s more than 500 families,” he said.

One parent, who identified himself only as "Hung," said he and his wife first noticed there was something different about their son when he was one-and-a-half years old.

“Normally when you talk to a boy or a girl normally they have eye contact, they listen and they react, like smiling, whatever. However, with my boy I realized a problem with this. Even when I said something he didn’t care and he act by himself,” said "Hung."

They took him to the hospital for tests and were told three months later that their son has ASD. The doctors told him because their son was still very young all they could do is interact with him as best they could. When he was three or four they could make a better assessment of what he needed.

Varying treatments

Instead, Hung and his wife sought information from online forums and attended club meetings to learn what autism was and what they could do about it. In the last two years the couple has tried a variety of different approaches, but says the number of methods available can be very confusing.

Autism specialist Tony Louw is director of Learning Strategies in Ho Chi Minh City, which offers intervention services for adults and children with developmental delays. He said as countries work to improve policies for mental health, pressure from parents often is a catalyst for government action.

He added that in his six years in Vietnam, parents have become a lot more active in seeking information, mostly through the Internet.

“What we find is that explaining about diagnosis of autism is a lot easier than explaining about other difficulties that their child might be experiencing," said Louw. "Because those parents might be bringing to the table some background and understanding on the fact that autism already exists and what it might actually look like. And that’s been a big change while I’ve lived here in Vietnam.”

Local media report the number of people being diagnosed with autism in Vietnam has increased in recent years. It is unclear if that is from improved reporting methods, though, or an actual rise in the number of affected individuals.

You May Like

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid