Nguyen Thi Hang, a mother in Ha Noi, struggled alone with her son for five years as he battled autism.
Do Thuy Nga, director of the Hope Centre, takes care of autistic children. Photo: hanoimoi.com.vn
Her second son was born healthy without any problems, but three years later when he started kindergarten, he could not talk like his classmates.
“At that time, when I learned that he suffered from autism, I thought the sky was falling,” said Hang.
Doctors at the Hope Centre soon pulled Hang out of the deep hole of desperation and now, she feels confident enough to look after her son on her own.
Viet Nam doesn’t have official statistics on the number of children suffering from autism, but incomplete figures from the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs showed that about 200,000 people, including adults and children, suffered from autism across the country.
As awareness of the disease rises, more cases are reported, and the number of patients going to the National Paediatrics Hospital for treatement increases by 10-20 per cent annually.
The Hope Centre on Kim Ma Street, Ba Dinh District in Ha Noi, has given hope for a lot of autistic children.
Do Thuy Nga, director of the centre, said that she had received many lovely children who couldn’t talk. They only jump, run, bite others and beat their heads into walls all day.
The words ‘mother’ and ‘grandmother’ are simple for most children, but some autistic kids need to take a long journey with the centre and their parents to speak, said Nga.
Thanh Ngoc Minh, head of the Psychiatry Ward under the National Paediatrics Hospital, said autism was a complex condition of brain development, progressing in the first three years of life.
Autism makes children lose their ability to communicate, especially in terms of language, and they can hurt themselves from self-destructive and disruptive actions.
There is no single cause of the disease, though research has indicated that autism could be caused by genetic factors, family and living environment, said Minh.
Minh worries that many parents don’t believe doctors when their children are diagnosed with the disease.
In some cases, Minh said, parents took their children to hospitals for treatment, but when they return home, they don’t spend time with their children and neglect them.
Some others give up treatment in the middle of some progress, and when they came back, the treatment becomes much more difficult.
In addition, several parents discovered the disease early, but could not find proper treatment hospitals, and the situation worsened as their children aged.
Le Dao Nghia, a doctor of the Paediatrics Ward at the Mai Huong Daycare Psychiatric Hospital, said when parents discovered their children could not talk, did not look in other’s eyes, or prefered playing alone, they should take their children to hospital.
The “golden period” to examine and treat autism is when children are two or three years old.
For effective treatment, doctors and psychologists were needed, but parents played the most important role, she said.
Minh noted that when receiving the diagnosis, instead of giving up hope, parents should research and contact experts in the field for proper treatment.
Autism treatment was a long process, thus parents should be determined, persistent, trusting, loving and accompany their children in the journey, said Minh.