About 70 participants attended “Inclusion and Neurodiversity” workshop at Chey Chumneas Hosptial in Kandal province on 01st April 2016
More than 70 participants representing psychologist, caregiver, teacher, special educator, parents of children with autism, and professionals working in autism gathered in a one-day workshop on “Inclusion and Neurodiversity” on 01st April 2016 at Chey Chumneas Referral hospital in Kandal province.

April marks the month for raising awareness on autism which was declared by the United Nations Organization. The theme of this year’s World Autism Awareness Day in 2016 is “Inclusion and Diversity”.

To celebrate the World Autism Day, Dr. J. Bhoomikumar,
the Director and Consultant Child Psychiatrist of Caritas’s Center or Child and Adolescent Mental Health program
(CCAMH) said CCAMH and Aid-et-Action with financial support from UNICEF organized the workshop with the aim to increase people’s awareness about people, especially children living with autism and to draw attention to those who are facing autism. Press release World Autism Awareness April, 2016.

Autism is widely known as a developmental disorder and not necessarily a disability and can be seen as normal variation in development. 70% of the children with autism have different levels of cognitive challenges. In Cambodia there is lack of awareness among parents, caregivers and professionals about this chronic disabling condition.

The workshop on inclusion and neurodiversity helps to promote better understanding of people with autism, said Dr. Hong Chea, Developmental Disability Service Program Manager of CCAMH. He expressed his delight and thanked to participants, especially parents who attended the workshop.
Some activities at the workshop
Mrs. Yim Sorineth, a physiologist at Happy Chandara School which provides education to poor children from grade 1-10 said what she gained from the workshop gives her an extra help and improve her skill in educating children, mainly those are living with autism.

Another participant, Mrs. Chhun Hak, 41, a mother of two children whose youngest son is living with autism also shared similar thought. She said “I hope to provide the skill and tools necessary to support my son and children with autism”. Chhun Hak is also an educator for CamYouth, an organization that provides education and life skill to poor children.
Mrs. Sorineth is passionate to learn about new techniques to identify children with autism
People with autism, mainly parents and activists all over the world consider that their children have the right to be included in society. For Mrs. Chhun Hak, “Children should not be locked up. They shall be able to have full enjoyment through various social activities like normal children do. For instance, they shall be able to access to school and participate in other events”.

CCAMH team thanked the director of Chey Chumneas Referral Hospital, Dr. Meng Rithy, who presided over the workshop. Interactive activities, ice breaker, game and role play were set up in order to allow space for participants to learn and express personal sharing about the issue, identifying autism diagnoses and how to include neurodiversity in the context of Cambodia.
At the end, the workshop concluded with suggestions for broader intervention from the government, school, community, parents and all key stakeholders to put more massive efforts in addressing autism.
Some activities that participants were exposed to various techniques for self-understanding and identifying autism diagnoses and how to include neurodiversity in the context of Cambodia

Context of Autism

Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder characterized by social, communication impairment, restricted and repetitive activities. Playing alone and showing unusual interest in spinning-objects such as fan and waving their own hands in front of their eyes, distinguishes them from children with other developmental abnormalities. About 1 in 500 children suffer from this condition and recently there is phenomenal increase in prevalence, but there is no study about the prevalence of this condition in Cambodia. No single cause for autism has been determined but genetic vulnerability in the backdrop of environmental conditions during the first three months of pregnancy is considered to be the cause. When recognized early in life, the children suffering from this problem can be helped. Children with autism benefit from picture exchange communication and structured teaching but some of them may need medication when they epilepsy and other mental health problems as comorbidity.

The Center for Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CCAMH) founded in the year 1991 has served children suffering from brain and behavior problem for the past 25 years. During the Silver Jubilee year, Caritas-CCAMH team plans to highlight the many challenges faced by children with autism and other neuro-developmental and mental health problems. CCAMH, located within the premises of Chey Chumneas Hospital, Takhmau, Kandal Province has on-going collaboration with TEACCH-Division, University of North Carolina to build the capacity of professionals in Cambodia to help children with autism. The team at Caritas-CCAMH has facilitated the formation of an association of parents of children with autism.

Let us celebrate inclusion and neurodiversity!



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