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April is Autism Awareness Month and when a wide range of awareness raising campaigns and activities are conducted. Following a series of events to commemorate the day since the 01st of April, Caritas’s Center for Child and Adolescent Mental Health program (CCAMH) has prepared its last special Autism Awareness activities at Chey Chumneas Referral hospital in Kandal province on 29th April 2016.

Dr. J. Bhoomikumar, the Director and Consultant Child Psychiatrist of CCAMH said the event primarily aims to encourage people to get involved in the event and to help raise awareness and understanding of autism. To reach as many people as possible, three main activities were organized in this special event. First, it was a free-consultation with parents of children with autism and communication challenges. Second, it was a meeting of member of the autism parent association (peer –counseling) that has gathered more than 15 parents. The third main activity was art, sport and fun activities organized particularly for children to play with their parents.
Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people and how they experience the world around them. In recent years, more and more children with language and communication challenges are brought by their parents/ caregivers to Caritas-CCAMH to rule out autism. Social and popular media has raised awareness on the issue of autism, as a result many parents/ caregivers are keen to know whether their child suffers from this condition.

The event was a wonderful success.  Mrs. Ham Sorphea, 34, is a mother of two sons from Phnom Penh. She has known the service from her son’s school and decided to come and get counseling for the first time at the hospital. “I think this awareness raising event is important for myself and other parents”, said Sorphea adding that “In Cambodia it is hard to find places specializing in this field”. Another new client, Mrs. Nam Rineth, 37, is a mother of three children from Kampong Cham province also came to the hospital to get first consultation on her youngest child’s health condition in terms of speaking capacity.
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S Free-counseling at Chey Chumneas hospital
Mrs. Sourng Lina, 26, is a mother of 2 years and 7 months old. Six months ago, she came to get counseling for the first time to figure out if her daughter is autistic. She came to hospital regularly. After six months, she noticed how her daughter has developed in speaking, playing, and the ways she expressed feelings. During the consultation on the day, she was happy to find out that her daughter is not autistic. She said “earlier, I was hopeless and could share this feeling to nobody. But now I am happy”.
During peer-counseling with parent association, most of parents found it crucial to participate in the event because they could share, learn, listen to best practices from other parents on how to take care of their children better.

The event was concluded with art, sport and fun activities, specifically designed to bring children the joy and to allow them play and enjoy new learning experiences with their parents.

CCAMH team thanks everyone, parent association, children, in particularly UNICEF and Australian Aid, who support and help us to raise World Autism Awareness Day this April.
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Meeting with parent association of children with Autism (peer-counseling)
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Children and parents enjoyed various art, sport and fun activities at Chey Chumneas Hospital in Kandal province.
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