HANOI, March 14 (Xinhua) -- The number of children diagnosed with autism is rising sharply in Vietnam, according to experts from the Vietnam Association of Autistic Children.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Thi Hoang Yen, deputy head of the institute, made the warning at a seminar on care and education for autistic children jointly held in Hanoi by the Vietnam Association of Autistic Children, the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam and the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund.
A study conducted by the Hanoi-based Central Pediatrics Hospital revealed that the number of children with autism detected by the hospital in 2007 was 50 times more than in 2000, while the number of autistic children treated by the hospital up by 33 times.
Specifically in southern Ho Chi Minh City, the number of autistic children increased from only two in 2000 to 324, or 160 times higher, in 2008.
It was said that possibly 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 Dr. Yen.
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.
In regards to how to boost the efficiency of treatment for autism, Helen Tager-Flusberg, a psychological professor at Boston University in the United States, said early medical intervention is one of the keys to successful treatment for 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 experts.