Autism in Laos

When the Vice-Minister for Labour and Social Welfare - in this position resonsible for persons with disabilities in Lao PDR - asked how many persons with autism we have in Laos the correct answer was: none. In Laos the development disorder, in the meantime diagnosed in more than one percent of Americas kids, is not defined. No specialized medical personnel exist to check and diagnose. No experts in special education are trained to deal with the disorder and help those persons to live a joyful and meaningful life, to support their families in order to integrate their members with special needs.

In Lao society persons with Autism are regarded as slowly developing or - in more severe cases - as mentally retarded. Treatment starts quite often with putting a frog on the tongue of a small child. It is believed that this will encourage speech development. Later shamans may add some magic blows and spells. Children are stigmatized, sometimes the parents as well. According to widespread belief lack of love for their kids, wrong educational concepts may have lead to abnormities in the development of their child.

But of course the development disorder exists in Laos as in other countries. What is lacking are awareness, knowledge and acceptance. That is the challange a group of parents of children with autism started to deal with when they started joint activities.