The City Cambodia Project is fortunate to have had the opportunity to further develop the field of Speech and Language Therapy in Cambodia. They look forward to continuing to provide support and input for years to come with future teams!
Since 2007, newly qualified Speech and Language Therapists (SLTs) from City University London have provided a range of SLT support in various settings across Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for a three-month period following graduation. Settings have included work in an orphanage for children with disabilities, international schools, a special needs school, cleft lip and palate in hospital settings, and the Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health.
Over the years, the visiting SLTs have worked to build services in these different settings by training local professionals in evidence-based strategies, and giving relevant advice. The goal has been to build the confidence of professionals who carry out SLT services in the Khmer language after the visiting SLTs have left. The support of the SLTs has proved very beneficial in these settings, as teams every year have been able to report continuity in the services provided, while also finding new opportunities to develop skills and provide further training. They have had the unique opportunity to not only train Khmer-speaking professionals, but to also raise awareness of the importance of our field to caregivers and professionals in a country where speech and language therapy is essentially non-existent.
The team has just finished their three-month volunteer experience and are eager to share their stories with you!
The Schools Team: Sam and Shona
Samantha Alloway and Shona Becker split their time in Phnom Penh between an international school (Asian Hope) and a special needs school (Rabbit School).
At Asian Hope, they assessed and gave therapy to a small caseload of children with speech, language, and communication needs (SLCN), in order to model techniques for the Special Educational Needs Coordinator and class teachers. They also delivered many teacher training presentations.
Shona and Samantha also liaised with a specialist teacher at Rabbit School who has received ongoing training from City University graduates for the past few years. After observing the teacher, Shona and Samantha’s main goal was to facilitate her in training other class teachers and parents. They also provided advice to teachers in the vocational training room, where young people (16-25 years) with disabilities learn the skills they need to find work.
A large part of the SLTs’ role in Phnom Penh involved working with interpreters, allowing them to learn more about the distinctive Cambodian culture. Due to the lack of awareness around SLCN in this country, the SLTs were not only overcoming linguistic barriers, but were also attempting to promote positive attitudes around disabilities.
Sam and Shona presented to teachers involved in Asian Hope’s Village Development Project—which educates children who have not been able to attend formal education or have dropped out.
The Cleft Lip and Palate Team: Kristin and Lauren
Lauren Cooper and Kristin AmRhein worked in various hospital settings across Phnom Penh.
In the Children’s Surgical Centre, Lauren and Kristin worked with Samnang—who has almost worked with the City-Cambodia Project since the beginning—to develop his skills as a Speech Adviser. They focused on:
Providing new games for therapy
- Adapting existing assessments
- Structuring his time so he can see more cleft lip and palate patients during the day (he sees a range of patients before and after their surgeries at the Centre)
Samnang is now passing on his extensive knowledge about speech difficulties by training a new Speech Adviser from Khmer Soviet Friendship Hospital. His training will continue throughout the year until the trainee is able to independently take on responsibilities at Khmer Soviet Friendship Hospital.
At Military Hospital, there was a small caseload of children to assess and provide therapy for. The goal was to provide local individuals with knowledge for sustainable service, but Lauren and Kristin struggled to find a suitable interpreter/Speech Adviser which limited the amount of time they worked there.
National Paediatric Hospital has greatly developed with input from the City-Cambodia teams over the past few years. Alin, the Speech Adviser, is now a doctor working two days a week instead of one, providing clinics for children in Phnom Penh. This includes a clinic for children without cleft who have difficulties such as language delay or suspected autism. Kristin and Lauren helped increase Dr. Alin’s knowledge and confidence in giving advice to parents of children with more general speech and language difficulties. They also helped train a nurse in feeding and speech difficulties associated with cleft lip and palate. They hope to continue working together in this setting.
An unexpected part of their role was training doctors and nurses from One-2-One (an NGO which provides healthcare and advice to some of the poorest people in the Cambodian provinces). This involved basic training in what speech and language is; feeding and speech difficulties in children with cleft lip and palate, and associated syndromes; as well as introductions to hearing difficulties and autism. They were responsive to the training and are looking forward to more input from the team next year.
Read more about Kristin and Lauren’s work in these cleft settings through their blog.
The Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Team: Kim
Kim Lan Luc worked at the Centre of Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CCAMH) of Chey Chumneas Hospital, based in Takhmau. She assessed and implemented therapy to referrals within an allocated caseload in order to model therapy techniques to CCAMH’s speech advisors. She saw children with a range of communication difficulties, including language delay, autism, hearing impairment, learning disabilities, speech sound disorder, and voice disorder.
Working in a foreign country, where speech and language therapy is a new concept, presented many challenges. She worked closely with translators to overcome the language barrier and to familiarise herself with Cambodian social and language culture. She ensured that speech advisors, parents, and schools were involved in the planning and implementation of therapy programmes to help inform them of the important role speech and language therapy can play in a child’s language development.
To further educate parents, Kim ran therapy group sessions, such as toddler groups and parent-child-interaction therapy. This was particularly useful for modelling therapy techniques to parents, who were pleased with their child’s progress and commented that these groups gave them many ideas on how to best support their child’s communication development.
Kim also delivered training presentations about autism and specific language impairment as requested by CCAMH staff members. These training sessions were developed to provide staff with an overview of recent research findings and ideas for assessment and therapy. Staff commented that the trainings gave them fresh ideas on how to approach complex cases. Kim also delivered private training sessions to speech advisors. Topics included goal setting and session planning. The speech advisors are looking forward to receiving more training in these areas from next year’s team.
Participation in the City Cambodia Project was an enriching experience allowing SLTs share their time and talents in a meaningful and sustainable way, while allowing professional growth.