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

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals 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.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

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