The conference, with the theme “Autism: a Matter of Family and Society,” was organised by the Vietnam Fatherland Front of HCM City under the attendance of professionals, experts and parents.
Autism is a bio-neurological developmental disability that generally appears before the age of three, according to the National Autism Association. Autistic children often have unusual responses to sensory inputs, and struggle with language, speech and sensory skills.
Nguyen Thanh Tam, Director of the city’s Integrated Education Support Centre for Children with Disabilities, said hospitals with pediatric departments, health centres and educational psychology facilities could test children for autism.
However, the test results may not agree because they depend on the type of diagnostic technology used at different facilities.
A lack of coordination among the testing facilities can affect the initial supportive therapy for autistic children.
“Interaction is an indispensable activity in the intervention and supportive therapies for children with ASD,” he said.
Caring and creating equality in health care, as well as access to basic social services such as education and social security, are the best ways to approach autistic children and adults, according to Tam.
The issue concerns families and society, but it is also the responsibility of the entire community, and commitment and enthusiasm are required.
"A society that accepts and respects diversity will provide the best ways and better opportunities for children with ASD to integrate into society,” he said.
He said the education sector should create a friendly, safe, inclusive and equitable academic environment for autistic children.
Ngo Xuan Diep from the Psychology Department at the HCM City University of Social Sciences and Humanities, said that, according to the department’s recent surveys, there are more than 100 methods of interventions and occupational therapies to fight autism in the US, while Vietnam has about 30.
Doctors and scientists have still not been able to identify the exact cause of autism and the best ways to deal with it.
Analysis shows that each method can solve only one problem in autism spectrum disorders.
For caretakers and parents, “it is necessary to provide treatment focused on psychological intervention related to the field of educational psychology, not only the medical field,” Diep said.
"More effective results occur if children diagnosed with ASD receive an intervention before they are four years old. The earlier the child gets professional intervention, the better the outcome will be,” he said.
HCM City has numerous service facilities and centres for autistic children, including about 10 legally recognised facilities.
However, many of the facilities face a lack of officials with real expertise, and are not strictly controlled by authorised agencies.
The city should lead the country in developing a support policy for autistic children and their parents, conduct more research, and compile statistics related to autism, Diep said.
He also proposed developing a model that would combine family and specialised schools for children with ASD in HCM City.
Pham Hong Nhung of Binh Thanh district, who has an autistic child, said her child faced problems accessing education and health care.
She hopes the Government will offer more training courses for parents and give recommendations about the best schools and service facilities for their children.
“Stigma and discrimination against autistic children put great pressure on both kids and parents,” she said.
She said the Government should help change the community’s mindset about children who are autistic.