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

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll 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.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs