Number of children with autism in HCMC rises 160 times


Updated : 03/13/2013 14:27 GMT + 7

The number of children with autism in Ho Chi Minh City has increased by nearly 160 times over eight years, the Education and Science Institute has warned.

The warning was released at a seminar on care and education for autistic children jointly held by the Vietnam Association of Autistic Children, the US Embassy in Vietnam and the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund in Hanoi yesterday.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Thi Hoang Yen, deputy head of the institute, told the seminar that the number of children diagnosed with autism is rising sharply in Vietnam.

According to a study conducted by the Hanoi-based Central Pediatrics Hospital, the number of children with autism detected by the hospital in 2007 was 50 times more than in 2000, and the number of autistic children treated by the hospital in 2007 increased by 33 times from 2000, Yen said.

In HCMC, the number of autistic children increased from only two in 2000 to 324, or 160 times higher, in 2008.

However, it is possible that many children were already suffering from autism for a long time before they were diagnosed. Therefore, when numerous children were diagnosed in recent years, they created a situation in which the disorder's prevalence has apparently increased sharply.

Meanwhile, most pediatric doctors in Vietnam do not fully understand the condition and have no early diagnosis skills, leading to late detection, according to Yen.


File photo shows autistic children learning in a class at the Khai Tri special education school in HCMC (Photo: Tuoi Tre)

This situation has lead to a reality in which many children have not been diagnosed as autistic until they were over 36 months old – the age at which treatment becomes less effective.

Late diagnosis of autism accounts for about 44 percent of the total number of autistic children who have been treated at the hospital, Yen said.

In regards to how to boost the efficiency of treatment for autism, Helen Tager-Flusberg, a psychological professor at Boston University in the US, said early medical intervention is one of the keys to success in treating autistic children.

Autism is a developmental disorder that appears in the first three years of a child’s life, and affects the brain's normal development of social and communication skills.

Children with autism generally have problems in three crucial areas of development: social interaction, language and behavior.

The exact causes of the disorder remain unknown. There is probably a combination of factors that leads to autism, including genetic factors and others including diet, mercury poisoning, the body’s inability to properly process vitamins and minerals, and vaccine sensitivity, according to medical websites.