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Double disadvantage of autistic children during the pandemic

At the end of 2021, Ms. Cuc was shocked to realize that her 2-year-old twin children were talking nonsense and acting strangely like her eldest son, baby Khac Dung.

Khac Dung, 4 years old, was diagnosed with autism since he was just over two years old, with manifestations such as not integrating into public places, not pronouncing the language.

Before the fourth wave of the epidemic, Dung was intervened at a special education center in Thanh Hoa city, 30 km away from home, and attended a kindergarten near his home. After studying for two months, Dung has improved. “I turned on the sound more purposefully, I was able to say words like ‘ba, grandma, chicken.’ If I continued, I would definitely improve more,” said Ms. Bui Thi Cuc, 33 years old, from Thang Long commune, Nong district. Cong said.

But her husband fell ill with herniated disc and could not work for 10 months. All activities for the family of four adults and three children depend on the salary of the garment worker of Ms. Cuc, the maximum monthly overtime is 6 million dong.

Khac Dung had to drop out of school. Last year, he stayed at home with his twin brothers, under the care of grandparents who are both over 70 years old. Around October 2021, Ms. Cuc realized that the twins Dat and Dang also imitated his bad habits such as talking loosely, cognitively slower than their peers, sometimes walking on tiptoes…

“There is no greater pain than when all three children are diagnosed with a language disorder, autism,” the mother shared.

A twin baby of Ms. Cuc in the morning session of April 1, at a specialized facility in Thanh Hoa city.  Photo: Blue Sky Center

One of Ms. Cuc’s three young children in the morning class on April 1, at a specialized facility in Thanh Hoa city. Photo: Blue Sky Center.

The latest edition of the magazine Lancet The world has 78 million people with autism (ASD), accounting for more than 1% of the population, and most of them are unsupported. Epidemic affects all children, but children with autism spectrum disorders are most affected.

A late 2021 study by the Autism Research Foundation SPARK, in the US of 3,500 parents, found that negative changes in children with autism were three times greater than in children with neurological disorders. Another study of 400 parents in China also found that school closures caused children with ASD to lose their golden moments of intervention. More than a third of parents said their child had gotten worse, such as restless, easily distracted, angry and fussy.

“During the pandemic, a lot of autistic children and their families ‘live and die’ in their own space and world without receiving care, education or help,” said Dr. Tran Van Cong, Dai. School of Education (Hanoi National University), a member of the World Association for Autism Research (INSAR), said.

Dr. Cong has known many unfortunate cases. There are children who have made a lot of progress after nearly two years of study, but after the break due to the translation, all skills have receded. Before the child could say double words, now he can’t say it again. Another child who intervened at a very early stage, studied for a month and had to take a break from the epidemic. Now it’s almost four years old, leading to many difficulties in intervention, and the gap with children of the same age is widening.

According to the Master of Special Education Ha Thi Nhu Quynh (Hanoi), normal children, even with language disorders, generally improve over time. But children with autism, when there is no teacher or family to teach them, will lose skills, regress language and increase instinctive behavior.

Quynh’s center has a pair of twins 27 months old, enrolled in April 2021, in which he has a speech delay and she has an autism spectrum disorder. After only a month of intervention, the baby had to stay home from the epidemic for the past year. “If you are slow to speak, you still get better, you can form sentences. But if you have autism, you will completely lose what you have learned, and increase your irritability, screaming, and not being able to complete even the simplest tasks.” , Quynh shared.

Students with autism and other disorders during lunch time at a special education institution in Dong Anh, Hanoi, on March 29.  Photo: Phan Duong

Students with autism and other disorders during lunch time at a special education institution in Dong Anh, Hanoi, on March 29. Photo: Phan Duong

Besides the reason that schools are closed, the epidemic makes school fees for children really become a burden for many families. Ms. Tran Thi Dung, principal of three specialized educational institutions in Thanh Hoa, cited for example that, before Covid-19, the school in Sam Son had about 40 students, but the outbreak lasted for a long time, forcing them to take time off. when there were only 10 children. “The children’s parents mainly rely on tourism, but the two frozen tourist seasons affect their economy, and the children lose the opportunity to go to school,” Dung said.

Studies on the negative effects of Covid-19 also show that autistic children staying at home and increasing bad behaviors have inhibited parents. Ms. Bui Thi Cuc said, all three of her children had a lot of need to speak, but because they did not have the language, they could not express what they wanted, so they disturbed them. Some times, the adults in the house lose patience and scold the children. When it became clear that the “riots” of their children were all basic needs such as thirst, food, hygiene… they became more and more tormented.

“I always blame myself for being born too thick, causing baby Dung to not be cared for when his mother had two brothers. Then also because of poverty and lack of knowledge, I did not send him to school, making him inferior to friends”, Ms. Cuc said. confided.

Even when she and her husband realized their mistake half a year ago, circumstances did not allow them to do much. The epidemic and the coming cold season made the three children and their grandparents sick constantly. On Tet 2022, they only sent their children to school for a few days but had to take a break because the whole family was infected with Covid-19.

Dr. Cong said that he himself Parents During the pandemic there are also times of helplessness not knowing what to do and where to start. For many families, economic security and income are priorities, so it’s not easy to give advice. However, experts recommend that parents consider taking online courses and classes. At the same time determining which one to prioritize first, it is important to remember that children with autism can make good progress with timely and active intervention.

“If the child has been intervened at a certain center, parents can participate in school programs during the epidemic season, maintain a connection with teachers or can also invite teachers to teach at home,” he said. question.

Faced with the fact that her students are negatively affected by the epidemic, Ms. Cao Thu Hang, principal of a special education system in Hanoi, has implemented a training program for parents at home. In the past year, Ms. Hang has organized 7 courses, each training 20 to 30 parents.

Phuong Thuy, 38 years old, from Phu Quoc said that thanks to attending courses, she has helped her son make great progress in just the past three months. Baby Khanh Hy, her daughter was diagnosed with ADHD and autism more than a year ago, since then she was sent to two centers in Saigon and one in Rach Gia (Kien Giang). However, after studying for half a year, I did not make progress. “Since then, I have attended about 15 different courses, especially an online course during the epidemic season designed in a ‘hands-on’ style, which has helped me understand many things,” Thuy shared.

After the course, she knows what stage her child is at and what help she needs, from which she sets up a lesson plan to teach. In terms of language, from saying 3 words, now she can say 9 words. Thanks to her mother’s teaching to ask questions, little Hy is now able to say whether she likes it or doesn’t like it. From a boy who could not sit still for 4 minutes, now he can focus on studying for 15 minutes. This mother also gives her children exercises to improve their sense of smell, fine and gross motor, such as walking on balance bridges or small zigzag lines.

“Through the process of accompanying my child, I found that parents can’t really teach their children independently, but they shouldn’t rely entirely on teachers, but should combine for the best,” said Ms. Thuy.

Thuy teaches her children to practice fine motor at home in An Thoi, Phu Quoc, on the afternoon of April 1.  Photo: Character provided.

Thuy teaches her children to practice fine motor at home in An Thoi, Phu Quoc, on the afternoon of April 1. Photo: Character provided.

Master Cao Thu Hang feels that the pandemic can be a push for parents to realize the importance of equipping their children with knowledge and skills. Only parents can sacrifice and follow their children for the rest of their lives. Moreover, when they have knowledge, parents will also know if the teachers teach their children correctly and help their children revise at home.

From the beginning of this week, three brothers, Dung, Dat, and Dang, intervened again. Knowing the family’s situation, the school waived tuition for one child. However, Cuc and her husband still have to spend 750,000 VND for school fees and taxis for their children, not to mention preschool and other family expenses for food and medicine. They once took a loan from a bank, used part of it to get tongue surgery for their three children to improve their language, and are now planning to borrow another to send them to school.

“My family has been determined to accept as much as they can, as long as the children can be intervened until they can talk, communicate, and integrate with their friends,” the couple said.

Phan Duong

With the goal of igniting the faith of children with cancer, the Hope Foundation cooperates with the Mr. Sun program to launch the Sun of Hope program. From the beginning of 2022, the Fund expands its audience to care for children with autism, orphans, and disabilities… One more of your cooperation is another ray of light to the future generations of the country. Please see program informationhere.

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