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

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    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.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora