Parents in Cambodia are becoming increasingly aware of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and are sending their children to special education classes in private and state-recognized schools.
Many parents hope that their children will be able to attend school with well-trained teachers and eventually integrate into public schools like other children. Others only expect their children to become more independent.
The Takhmao Special Education High School in Kandal province is one of the few schools in Cambodia that offers full-day education for children with ASD from kindergarten to Grade 12. The school has more than 200 students, with many more on the waiting list.
The principal of the school, Chan Sarin, said that the number of children with autism enrolled in the school is on the rise. He attributed this to increased awareness among parents and the availability of more specialized education options.
Dr Kao Sambath of the National Paediatric Hospital in Phnom Penh said that a study conducted in 2020 found that awareness of autism among the general public in Cambodia is still limited. He called on parents of autistic children to play a more active role in spreading awareness about the disorder.
Sambath also said that there are a limited number of specialist schools in Cambodia that offer education for children with autism. He added that the tuition fees at these schools are often high, making it difficult for low-income families to afford them.
Despite the challenges, there are a number of organizations in Cambodia working to improve the lives of children with autism. GSES is one such organization. The school offers affordable education and has a good track record of helping children with autism develop their social skills and become more independent.
The school is also looking to build its human resource capacity. It is actively looking for new graduates who would like to gain experience and work at its new campus.
The increasing awareness of autism in Cambodia is a positive development. With more specialized education options available and more parents becoming aware of the disorder, more children with autism will be able to reach their full potential.