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Intellectual disabilities in the spotlight at workshop


Singapore-funded program offers training in caregiving skills

Photo by: TOM HUNTER

Singaporean ambassador Tan Yee Woan (right) tours the Caritas Centre Thursday.

THE country's first speech therapy training program, aimed at improving care for children with special needs, concluded Thursday in Kandal province at the Caritas Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CCAMH).

In three workshops over a period of six months, 18 Cambodians from five local NGOs have received training in basic care-giving skills as part of a program funded by the Singaporean government and developed by the Speech Language and Hearing Association of Singapore.

"The first batch of caregivers has been trained to promote feeding and communication skills among children with special needs," said Um Thorn, Kandal's provincial health director.

Jegannathan Bhoomikumar, director of the Caritas Centre, said the nation's long history of war meant the government had traditionally stepped away from dealing with intellectual disabilities in favour of combating physical disabilities such as land mine injuries.

"It is time for Cambodia to look beyond the war and start tackling the root causes of brain injury," Bhoomikumar said.

The World Health Organisation estimates that between 2 and 4 percent of children in developing countries suffer from some form of intellectual disability, and that a quarter of those cases can be prevented.

Bhoomikumar said developmental disabilities are unusually high here due to a series of factors such as iron and iodine deficiencies, a high rate of tuberculosis meningitis and the fact that many mothers have children after they turn 40.

Keo Bora, a caregiver with children's NGO Goutte D'Eau, said the workshops had meant he could put into practice what he had learned and pass the lessons onto his colleagues.

"Before, I had no idea what to do if a child was crying," Keo Bora said.

"Now I can communicate and effectively feed the child."

CCAMH started work in 1995 and is the only establishment in the country that offers children with intellectual disabilities specialised services such as assessment, counselling, behavioural therapy, physiotherapy and speech therapy.



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