Report Finds Speech Therapy Services in Cambodia Lacking
By | September 21, 2013

A new research paper has identified significant gaps in the provision of therapeutic services for people suffering from speech disorders around Cambodia and estimates that more than 600,000 people could benefit if such services are funded and a new speech therapy degree program established in universities.

The paper, which was released on Thursday by the Capacity Building of People with a Disability in the Community Organization (CABDICO) NGO, found that while communication and swallowing disorders affect an estimated 536,000 people in Cambodia, those living with learning difficulties, epilepsy or cognitive impairments could also benefit from proper speech therapy services.

“Although data in Cambodia is insufficient, informed estimates indicate that the potential number of beneficiaries from a fully operational speech therapy service is likely to be more than 600,000 individuals,” the report says.

Weh Yeoh, the disability consultant who authored the report, writes that “the implications of untreated communication and swallowing disorders are serious.”

“People with untreated swallowing disorders are 13 times more likely to suffer premature death than those who are not…. People with communication problems face isolation and low opportunities to participate in work, school or community. Mental health is also majorly impacted,” the report adds.

But the report found that although there are a number of or­ganizations seeking to provide therapy services, “research into stakeholders demonstrates the large gap that exists in service provision,” and that they are not always capable of “performing them comprehensively.”

Expertise in the area of swallowing disorders is “very low,” while there are no organizations focusing on helping people with expressive or receptive language disorders.

In some cases, people are excluded from receiving help because they do not meet the criteria for therapy that some organizations provide.

“For example, service providers that specialize in hearing and visual impairments do provide some services for children that have speaking impairments. However, in order to qualify for this service, the children that have speaking impairments must have a hearing impairment as well. This excludes those children with speaking impairments but no hearing impairments,” the report says.

According to CABDICO’s executive director, Yeang Bun Eang, it is difficult to raise funds for such services in Cambodia.

“Most of the people focus on advocacy, but there is no point doing advocacy if the basic needs [of children with disabilities] are not met,” he said.

Mr. Yeoh said one approach that could reap long-term, sustainable benefits would be to see the establishment of a speech therapy degree that “will be fully Cambodian owned, initiated and run.

“This is the only way that Cambodia can reduce their dependency on outside expertise and funds, and address the situation for over 600,000 people in a comprehensive manner.”

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday began a three-day hearing to re-examine a trio of cases involving disgraced former Phnom Penh police chief Heng Pov, who was convicted of a slew of crimes by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and is currently serving a 98-year prison sentence.

Two Cambodian hackers who once sought to topple the government by infiltrating its websites to reveal sensitive information were on Tuesday handed a suspended sentence, released from prison and ordered to work for the Interior Ministry, according to their attorney and a ministry official.

The Ministry of Culture on Tuesday introduced the country’s first strategic cultural policy, an ambitious plan that includes setting up provincial cultural centers, launching arts education in schools, holding annual cultural events and promoting individual artists.

A Royal Cambodian Armed Forces soldier and a Thai counterpart were injured Monday in a shoot-out near the Ang Sas border checkpoint in Preah Vihear province, according to military officials, marking the first exchange of fire between the two countries since the Thai military ousted the elected government in May.

Three activist monks are to be expelled from Wat Changkran Taprohm in Phnom Penh after invoking the ire of senior monks with their anti-government activities and courting of the press.

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