Dien Ban District has over 1,000 children with disabilities and special needs. Prevalent conditions include Cerebral Palsy, Down’s syndrome, Autism, Microcephalus and intellectual impairment. There are barely any support services available. The consequences of these disabilities can be catastrophic to individuals and their families. They can result in social marginalisation, lack of educational opportunities, depression, and inability to find employment, as well as damaging health and well-being through the heightened risk of infection.

The following is a summary of the principle disabilities and medical conditions experienced by the children in Dien Ban.

Further information can be found by clicking the relevant links below, and then visiting our Links page.

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a brain-related condition arising during pregnancy. The brain becomes damaged and this causes problems with the child’s posture, movement and co-ordination.

Cerebral palsy cannot be cured. However, it is not progressive (it does not get worse as the child develops). It can be managed through therapies such as physiotherapy and speech therapy.

There are many contributing factors resulting in brain damage during pregnancy or at any stage after when the child’s brain is still developing. Some possible causes of cerebral palsy include infections, poor oxygen supply and family genetic problems. It is also suggested that dioxin poisoning via the food chain can be a cause.

For more information, please visit our Cerebral Palsy Page.

Down’s Syndrome

Globally, one in every 800 to 1,000 babies is born with Down’s syndrome. There are no statistical records kept of numbers of children with Down’s syndrome in Dien Ban. However, we have seen a high prevalence amongst children we have screened. Currently 25% of children on our programmes have Down’s syndrome.

Down’s syndrome affects a baby’s normal physical development and causes moderate to severe learning difficulties. It is a lifelong condition that develops when a baby is still in the womb (uterus). Children who are born with Down’s syndrome also have a higher chance of developing other conditions, some of which are life-threatening.

For more information, please visit our Down’s Syndrome Page.


Autism is a disorder of neural development characterised by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behaviour. The diagnostic criteria require that symptoms become apparent before a child is three years old. Autism affects information processing in the brain by altering how nerve cells and their synapses connect and organize; how this occurs is not well understood. Social deficits distinguish autism from other developmental disorders. People with autism have social impairments and often lack the intuition about others that many people take for granted.

Unusual social development becomes apparent early in childhood. Autistic infants show less attention to social stimuli, smile and look at others less often, and respond less to their own name. Autistic toddlers differ more strikingly from social norms; for example, they have less eye contact and turn taking, and do not have the ability to use simple movements to express themselves, such as the deficiency to point at things. Three- to five-year-old autistic children are less likely to exhibit social understanding, approach others spontaneously, imitate and respond to emotions, communicate non-verbally, and take turns with others.


Microcephalus is a neurodevelopmental disorder in which the circumference of the head is more than two standard deviations smaller than average for the person’s age and sex. Microcephalus may be congenital or it may develop in the first few years of life. Affected newborns generally have striking neurological defects and seizures. Severely impaired intellectual development is common, but disturbances in motor functions may not appear until later in life.

Infants with microcephalus are born with either a normal or reduced head size. Subsequently the head fails to grow while the face continues to develop at a normal rate, producing a child with a small head and a receding forehead, and a loose, often wrinkled scalp. As the child grows older, the smallness of the skull becomes more obvious, although the entire body also is often underweight and dwarfed. Development of motor functions and speech may be delayed. Hyperactivity and mental retardation are common occurrences, although the degree of each varies. Convulsions may also occur. Motor ability varies, ranging from clumsiness in some to spastic quadriplegia in others.

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