This blog post explores the growing recognition of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in Cambodia. While the exact number of autistic children remains unclear due to ongoing data collection, there’s evidence of a significant increase in diagnoses. This rise is attributed to greater public awareness and understanding of the condition.

Increased Diagnoses and School Needs

Chan Sarin, principal of Takhmao Special Education High School, reports a surge in diagnosed cases since 2020. This highlights the need for more special education facilities. His school, currently catering to 300 students, faces capacity constraints with a waiting list of over 600. Plans for expansion to accommodate an additional 200 students by 2025/2026 are underway.

Importance of Training and Resources

Sopaul Somalis, a parent of an autistic child, emphasizes the need for more trained professionals equipped to support autistic children. The current lack of resources poses a challenge in effectively managing this growing population.

Addressing Misdiagnosis and Discrimination

Concerns exist regarding unprofessional clinics offering consultations, potentially leading to misdiagnoses. The need for increased awareness extends to the general public to reduce discrimination faced by autistic individuals.

Government Initiatives and Data Collection

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) acknowledges the rising demand and is working on incorporating autism education programs into schools. Special education teacher training programs are also being implemented.

The Ministry of Social Affairs is conducting a 10-year census (started in 2020) to gather data on children with disabilities, including those with ASD. This data will be crucial for providing targeted support and services.

The Importance of Inclusion

Khuon Vichheka, MoEYS spokesperson, highlights the ministry’s efforts to promote inclusion through integration classes in mainstream schools. These classes cater to students with intellectual disabilities and ASD alongside typically developing students.

Looking Forward

While challenges remain, Cambodia is making strides in recognizing and supporting autistic children. Increased awareness, data collection, and targeted initiatives hold promise for a more inclusive and supportive future for autistic individuals in Cambodia.

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