Members of the public in Vietnam were up in arms after an autistic boy was tied to a classroom window by his teacher in November, in a case that cast a spotlight on the lack of specialist care available for autistic children in the country.

Nguyen Tai Ph., a four-year-old boy diagnosed with autism, was tied to a window after his teacher was reportedly unable to control him, Viet Nam News reported. When the incident was featured in the media, it drew public fury at the teacher’s actions, which also served to highlight the country’s shortcomings in the provision of  care and education for children with special needs.

Statistics from Vietnam’s Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs say that, as of mid-2018, there were around 200,000 registered autistic people in the country. However, the true number might be higher given the lack of awareness of the condition.

According to Vietnam National Institute of Educational Sciences’ Pham Minh Muc, the number of autistic children taken in by the National Paediatric Hospital in 2007 was 50 times higher than in 2000.

In Vietnam, autism is not officially recognized as a disability, which prevents autistic people from benefiting from any government policies for the disabled, in particular educational policies. The lack of any legal safeguards is one of the biggest obstacles an autistic child can face in Vietnam.

On top of this, public schools in Vietnam are not required to provide autistic children with special education. Further more, teachers in public schools are often not skilled in special needs education.

Apart from unskilled teachers, parents also sometimes prevent their special needs children from obtaining special education.

According to Nguyen Xuan Haim, head of the Department of Special Needs Education, parents are unable to accept that their children are “abnormal”, and often insist on the same educational methods used for other children.

Most parents also refuse to work with teachers to help with their children’s needs.

According to a survey conducted by the Hanoi University of Education, 30% of disabled children in Vietnam have intellectual disabilities, of whom 10% have autistic traits.